Michelle Moriarty recently joined Proskauer as Pro Bono Counsel. She comes from the Center for Reproductive Rights, where she was a Senior Staff Attorney. We spoke with Michelle about her work at the Center, what brought her to Proskauer, and her vision for the Pro Bono Counsel role.

Tell us about your work at the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Working at the Center was the most rewarding – and hardest – job I have ever had. We represented independent clinics, which provide the majority of abortion care in the United States, and individual abortion providers. As part of the U.S. Litigation team, I litigated a number of federal and state challenges to restrictions on abortion access. We challenged gestational bans, mandatory delay laws requiring two visits before an abortion could be performed, onerous and unnecessary licensing requirements, laws limiting who could provide abortion care, telemedicine bans, and laws requiring unfounded disclosures to patients, among others. We also advised our clients on compliance and risk.

Did you ever work with pro bono firms at the Center?

Yes! Our litigation teams had some wonderful pro bono law firm partners. I speak from firsthand experience when I say that having high-quality firm partners who bring their expertise and resources to bear on these important cases makes a tremendous difference. Firms also enable greater capacity. This has become even more important in recent months, as demand in this field has skyrocketed in the wake of the Dobbs decision.

What was it like to be the Center and get the Dobbs opinion?

Jackson Women’s Health Organization v. Dobbs was the Center’s case. I was actually part of the case team before the Supreme Court granted certiorari, which happened while I was out on parental leave.

Getting the decision was heartbreaking. We knew what the likely outcome would be after the draft decision leaked, but the impact on patients and our clients was immediate and devastating. Huge swaths of the country became abortion deserts almost overnight. Some clients were forced to close clinics that had been providing compassionate, high-quality abortion care in their communities for years. It was, without a doubt, the hardest day of my professional life.

What brings you to Proskauer?

Having been on the public interest side for the last several years, I know how impactful having a committed, talented pro bono partner can be, and I am excited to be a part of that.

It has also become clear to me that issues of justice are deeply intersectional. In order for us to work towards achieving a truly just society, we must focus on addressing the root causes of a wide variety of issues that are inherently interconnected, like poverty, racism, sexism, mass incarceration, homelessness, and barriers to access to healthcare, education, and the justice system, among many others. Firms are in a unique position to have a real impact across a wide variety of these issues.

Finally, Proskauer is an amazing place filled with talented, kind people. It has an incredibly strong pro bono program, and has demonstrated a real commitment to public service in its pro bono and corporate social responsibility work. I am so happy to be here!  

What is your vision for the Pro Bono Counsel role? 

As Pro Bono Counsel, I want to help the lawyers at Proskauer do pro bono work that has a significant impact and is also meaningful and rewarding. I believe pro bono is an area that provides opportunities for attorneys to learn new skills while also making a real difference in the lives of individuals and meaningfully impacting society as a whole. I want to help Proskauer be a leader in the pro bono space.

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Photo of William C. Silverman William C. Silverman

William C. Silverman is a partner responsible for leading Proskauer’s global pro bono efforts, which provide assistance to individual clients and nonprofit organizations in litigation as well as transactional matters. He focuses on identifying and securing pro bono opportunities and partnerships for Proskauer…

William C. Silverman is a partner responsible for leading Proskauer’s global pro bono efforts, which provide assistance to individual clients and nonprofit organizations in litigation as well as transactional matters. He focuses on identifying and securing pro bono opportunities and partnerships for Proskauer lawyers and ensuring widespread participation in these projects.

Bill has robust private and public sector experience and a strong criminal and civil background. He has worked extensively on government investigations and white collar criminal matters, as well as complex civil litigation in federal and state courts. He also served as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York, where he led criminal investigations, conducted trials and handled Second Circuit appeals.

Throughout his career, Bill has dedicated himself to the promotion of equal access to justice through pro bono service, particularly in the area of family court, anti-trafficking, and immigration.

Bill spearheaded a partnership among several law firms, corporations and the New York City Family Court to provide free legal advice to pro se litigants. The New York City Family Court Volunteer Attorney Program now has more than 400 volunteer attorneys from 40 major firms and corporations. Bill also helped build a coalition of organizations in a successful effort to secure additional Family Court judges in New York. He is now part of an effort spearheaded by Chief Judge Janet DiFiore to simplify the New York Court System from 11 trial courts to three.

Bill serves as counsel to the New York State Anti-Trafficking Coalition. In that capacity he has been a strong advocate for changes in the law and public policy to protect victims of human trafficking and bring perpetrators to justice. He also represents individual clients in this area, including a successful federal lawsuit brought on behalf of a trafficking victim against her traffickers. For his work, he was named by domestic violence nonprofit Sanctuary For Families as one of “New York’s New Abolitionists.”

Bill has spoken at numerous conferences and events, including New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman’s Hearings on Civil Legal Services and the American Bar Association’s Equal Justice Conference. In 2014, he attended a meeting at the White House with Vice President Joe Biden and other policymakers on the need for access to legal services in immigration proceedings.

Bill has been recognized for his public service with the Abely Pro Bono Leadership Award from Sanctuary For Families and Columbia Law School (2019); the Special Leadership Award for All-Around Excellence in Corporate Social Responsibility & the Law from City & State Reports (2015); the Commitment to Justice Award for Outstanding Partner from inMotion (2008); and the Matthew G. Leonard Award for Outstanding Pro Bono Achievement from MFY Legal Services (2007).

Outside of his work at the firm, Bill serves on various committees and non-profit boards. Bill is currently chairman of the Fund for Modern Courts, a non-partisan citizen organization devoted to improving New York State courts, and is formerly chairman of Legal Information For Families Today (LIFT), an organization devoted to unrepresented litigants in Family Court.