The Proskauer corporate social responsibility and pro bono blog

Fresh Air Fund’s Friendly Towns Program Creates Opportunities

I vividly remember waiting impatiently for my “Fresh Air Fund Sister” to arrive that first summer. It was the summer of 1973. As a young child, it was impossible for me to imagine the girl who would be spending two weeks with us at our home in suburban New Jersey. We were told that she lived in Manhattan, and her name was Judy. She was three years older than I. Would she be taller than I was? Since she was a city girl, I was sure she would be wiser. I recall being more than a bit apprehensive, with butterflies in my stomach. I also couldn’t imagine that she wanted to spend two weeks out of her own magical city. My town was a place where the mundane such as eating ice cream, seeing fireworks for the 4th of July and catching fireflies were the most memorable highlights of my suburban summers.

​It turns out, she wanted that too. During that summer, and many summers after that, she joined my family. Our families kept in touch during the school year, we got to know Judy’s mother, and eventually Judy began spending winter break with us as well. Judy became a member of my family, and the experience of having an older sister from a different background and with a nearly opposite world view was one of the most impactful experiences of my life. It kindled within me a desire to learn about people. It taught me that a generous spirit is a gift to the giver even more than the receiver, and that no matter what our differences are, it is possible to take a deep dive and find a commonality that was hard to imagine could exist.  Continue Reading

Taking a Step Closer to Preventing Gun Violence in Florida

One of the most important issues facing this country today is gun violence and how to prevent it.  Lawyers can play a vital role in advising legislators who want to enact meaningful gun regulations, and by using their skills to try to prevent the adoption of laws designed to block meaningful gun regulations.  Last month, a Proskauer team achieved a victory with nationwide implications by persuading a Florida state trial court to strike down a Florida gun law as unconstitutional.

The Florida law preempted “the whole field of regulation of firearms and ammunition,” meaning municipalities and counties could not pass gun regulations.  Unfortunately, such a preemption provision is not unusual, but in 2011, the Florida legislature took it a step further by adding substantial penalties for violating the preemption.  Under the law, if a municipality enacts a gun law later found preempted, it is subject to a private damages lawsuit with liability up to $100,000, plus uncapped attorneys’ fees, and the legislators who voted for the preempted law are subject to a $5,000 fine and removal from office by the governor. Continue Reading

Federal Court Dismisses Arizona School District’s Appeal to End Desegregation Order

Last week, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit granted a request by Proskauer and our co-counsel, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) to block efforts by the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) to be released from a court-supervised desegregation plan first imposed on the district in the 1970s.

MALDEF has represented Latino plaintiffs in the desegregation case since it was first filed in 1974. Thereafter, MALDEF’s case was combined with a lawsuit filed on behalf of African American students who similarly claimed that there was a longstanding pattern of racial segregation in TUSD’s school operations and curriculum. In 1978, a court agreed that there was intentional discrimination against Latino and African American students, and ordered the schools to be desegregated under court supervision. Continue Reading

Proskauer “Eats Cheap” for Charity

Earlier this month, Proskauer participated in “Eat Cheap for Charity,” an annual campaign by Citymeals on Wheels (Citymeals) that encourages lawyers throughout New York to spend less on lunch and donate their savings to charity. As a proud participant of the program, Proskauer makes a charitable donation to Citymeals and encourages all lawyers in the New York office to moderate their lunch spending for one week during the summer. The funds donated support Citymeals’s mission to provide nutritious meals and vital companionship to homebound elderly New Yorkers. In addition to raising funds for the organization, Citymeals’ “Eat Cheap” campaign helps highlight an important issue in the fight against hunger – the ever-growing senior population and rising demand on senior-citizen services.   Continue Reading

My Day as a Judge

As a member of the professional services team, the non-legal side of the Firm, I have few reasons to ever enter a courthouse. Unlike my colleagues in our Litigation Department, my role at the Firm does not require me to observe hearings, converse with judges, or discuss the legal and administrative challenges that are pervasive in our court system. Yet, last week I found myself doing just that. Through a program called “Judge for a Day” organized by Legal Information for Families Today (LIFT), I had the unique opportunity to join the LIFT staff at the Kings County Family Court in downtown Brooklyn for a fully immersive court experience. Continue Reading

Maximizing Access to Justice Through Pro Bono Priorities

Earlier this month, a Law360 article explored a fundamental—yet often overlooked—question:  whether the long-held standard practice of tallying pro bono hours remains “the best way to measure pro bono success.”  Though attempting to approximate a firm’s commitment to pro bono through quantifiable metrics is laudable, hours alone do not tell the full story.  Especially given that half of those seeking legal aid assistance are turned away due to a lack of resources, a firm should not lose sight of the fundamental (albeit less measurable) purpose of pro bono work, which is to maximize access to justice in under-served communities.

A growing body of empirical research aims to address the scarcity of legal services for the poor in the United States.  For example, consider Professor Jim Greiner, a leading scholar in the space, who founded the Access to Justice Lab at Harvard Law School in 2016.  Unlike most research into the practice of law, Greiner employs Randomized Control Trials (“RCTs”)—the gold standard for research in other disciplines—to explore difficult issues, such as how severely limited legal aid resources might be more efficiently deployed.  He has considered such questions as: Continue Reading

Proskauer, Pro Bono and Pride: A Q&A with LGBTQ+ Nonprofit Founder Michael Narain

This post contains sensitive subject matter.

We sat down with Michael Narain, the founder of Out My Closet, to talk about the vital role this nonprofit organization plays in the lives of at-risk LGBTQ+ youth and how Proskauer’s pro bono collaboration has helped to advance the organization’s mission.

In your own words, what does Out My Closet do and why is this work important and impactful?

LGBTQ+ youth experience disproportionate levels of homelessness and mental health issues, and are more likely to suffer from substance abuse and sexual exploitation. Out My Closet is a nonprofit organization that attempts to combat those trends by offering resources such as clothing, counseling, and connectivity to LGBTQ+ youth. We provide direct social services that feature face-to-face connection such as clothing pop-up shops, as well as support through social media platforms that connect LGBTQ+ youth to each other and to our volunteers. Out My Closet is staffed entirely by volunteers, many of whom are in their 20s and 30s, LGBTQ+, of color, immigrants, and the first in their families to be college-educated. There’s a real power in seeing someone not much older than you who made it through – and in being helped by someone who can understand and relate to your personal experiences. Continue Reading

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