In September, I had the privilege of speaking on a panel at The New York City Bar Association titled “Securing Democracy For Tomorrow.” Moderated by United States Magistrate Judge Katharine Parker, the event focused on the importance of civic education. To start things off, Dawn Smalls, a partner at Jenner & Block, introduced the keynote speaker, Schools Chancellor David Banks. David is a strong supporter of civic education and its capacity to empower students as change agents that have a genuine, lasting effect in their communities. He shared powerful firsthand examples from his career, in which he witnessed the impact of student activism as a positive force for social change in some of our most underserved neighborhoods.

In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month and Well-Being Week in Law, Proskauer’s Senior Manager of Wellness, Tracey Saliski, brought Brianne Gallo and me together for a discussion about finding purpose in life and work through participation in public service at Proskauer. It was a privilege to present on this

Education and social justice have long been core pillars of Proskauer’s commitment to public service. Despite the many challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, our corporate social responsibility programs have enabled lawyers and business services professionals throughout the Firm to connect with student groups across the country for engaging, interactive workshops focusing on college and career readiness topics. Expanding that mission, this week we are pleased to launch a new partnership with the Chinese-American Planning Council (CPC) and its “Learn and Earn” youth-focused programming.

Founded in 1965, CPC empowers Asian American, immigrant, and low-income communities in New York City by ensuring they have equitable access to the resources and opportunities needed to thrive. Today, CPC is the nation’s largest Asian American social services organization, supporting 60,000 individuals and families. The “Learn and Earn” program is a year-round afterschool enrichment program for high school juniors and seniors. Youth are actively engaged in leadership development, college preparedness, career exploration, community service, internships, and more.

To consider the great need, among people of limited means, for civil legal services during the COVID-19 crisis, a good starting point is where we were before the crisis started.  In short, civil legal resources for the poor in the United States are woefully inadequate.  According to the Legal Services Corporation, which documents the justice gap in America, between 62% and 72% of civil legal needs among low-income Americans are addressed inadequately or not at all.  Indeed, the United States fares very poorly in this regard when compared to other western democracies.

The current health crisis would be devastating under any circumstances but, from a legal standpoint, this crisis has laid bare the long-term challenges we face. 

Proskauer honored its lawyers and staff who have made significant contributions to the Firm’s pro bono and corporate social responsibility programs this year at its 12th Annual Golden Gavel Awards ceremony on January 22. The following is a list of recipients alphabetically by project.

Protecting Immigrant Youth

Watch now

Team New Orleans: Catholic Charities-Archdiocese of New Orleans – Special Immigrant Juvenile Status

In collaboration with Catholic Charities-Archdiocese of New Orleans, this team successfully represented six immigrant children from Honduras and El Salvador in obtaining predicate orders from Louisiana juvenile courts finding that the children cannot be reunified with one or both of their parents due to abuse, abandonment, or neglect, and that it would not be in the children’s best interest to return to their home countries. These predicate orders open the door for these children to apply for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, an immigration remedy that would protect these children from deportation and give them a pathway to lawful permanent residence in the United States.

Proskauer honored its lawyers and staff who have made significant contributions to the Firm’s pro bono and corporate social responsibility programs this year at its 11th Annual Golden Gavel Awards ceremony on January 22. The following is a list of recipients alphabetically by project.

Protecting Voting Rights

These attorneys and paralegals ensured that a team of more than 150 volunteers from Proskauer and partnering corporate clients would be ready and able to answer nearly 2,000 calls over two days from voters in five states during the 2018 mid-term elections. This effort was part of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law non-partisan “Election Protection” hotline program, which strives to ensure that all U.S. citizens can exercise their right to vote.

On October 22nd, Proskauer associates Dan Nelson and Jin Joo received the New York City Bar Justice Center’s 2018 Jeremy G. Epstein Award for Pro Bono Service.  Since November 2017, Dan and Jin have coordinated Proskauer’s involvement in the Justice Center’s Veterans Assistance Project (VAP).  These two are no strangers to public service.  In addition to their current pro bono work, they both previously served with distinction in the military.  Dan served in the U.S. Army infantry from 2000 to 2008, during which time he deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan; and Jin served in the U.S. Air Force as a communications officer for four years, and was deployed to Iraq in 2005.

Through VAP we provide veterans with legal assistance on claims for compensation from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The veterans we assist have disabilities arising from injuries sustained during their time in service, and are of limited means. These pro bono matters are important and impactful. At the firm, these are among the most popular cases to take, due to the challenging and fulfilling nature of the work.  Proskauer’s involvement in VAP has grown rapidly thanks in large part to a successful partnership with Bloomberg L.P.’s legal department.  We have represented a total of 45 veteran clients thus far with the help of approximately 30 Bloomberg and 70 Proskauer lawyers, paralegals and staff.

Wendy Dessy, Manager of Corporate Social Responsibility: What role does public service play in Proskauer’s summer program?

Caroline: Proskauer has a longstanding tradition of public service, and I’m proud to call it a big part of our summer program.  After Hurricane Katrina, we sent summer associates from every office to New Orleans to help with the clean-up. We worked with Habitat for Humanity to build houses for those who lost their homes. Proskauer has an office in New Orleans. It was very important for us to support our colleagues and their surrounding community during that critical time, and we went back to New Orleans for three years.  That is just my favorite example, but every year all of our summer associates are encouraged to get involved in some form of public service.

Wendy: Do you provide pro bono opportunities for summer associates?

Caroline: Pro bono is an important part of Proskauer’s culture. Summer associates have advocated for domestic violence survivors seeking orders of protection in New York City family courts alongside attorneys from Sanctuary for Families, and they have drafted petitions to seal the decades-old criminal records of low-income New Yorkers as a means of removing barriers to employment and housing. One summer associate teamed up with a Proskauer attorney to help an immigrant survivor of domestic violence petition for her child to obtain a visa in the hope of reuniting in the United States after three years of separation. Another summer associate assisted in drafting a film production contract for the Universal Hip Hop Museum.