Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, New York, NY (and other U.S. and international offices)
Cleary Gottlieb is sincerely honored and humbled to receive the American Bar Association’s 2016 Pro Bono Publico Award. Since its founding, the firm has believed that the practice of law is a privilege, one that carries with it the responsibility to apply its lawyers’ talents for the benefit of underserved individuals and communities. We approach our pro bono initiatives exactly as we approach our other matters: putting the full needs of the client front and center.
In 2015, the firm’s U.S.-based lawyers dedicated more than 63,000 hours to pro bono matters, assisting more than 400 clients. We are proud of these numbers, but the true measure of our pro bono program is the impact that our work has had on our clients. Mr. Olatushani, for example, had already been on death row for ten years when Cleary started working on his case in 1995. Following more than fifteen years of litigation in Tennessee state courts, Mr. Olatushani was released from prison in 2012. Mr. Olatushani is now an activist, artist, husband and father.
Our lawyers provide critically needed legal services to a broad range of clients like Mr. Olatushani who desperately need lawyers but cannot afford them. We defend the rights of the homeless, represent victims of gender violence, fight for better access to public facilities for people with disabilities, address delays in the Bronx criminal courts, represent immigrants, help community organizations incorporate and operate, and assist micro-lenders in their efforts to expand programs. In addition to our robust in-house pro bono program, in 1968, Cleary became the first law firm to establish an externship program, granting lawyers the opportunity to work at select legal services organizations while receiving full salary and benefits from the firm.
Cleary focuses much of its efforts on representing those most marginalized in our society. Since 2011, for example, Cleary has been working with The Legal Aid Society’s Exploitation Intervention Project which seeks to prevent trafficking survivors from being re-victimized by prior criminal convictions that act as barriers to empowerment, freedom and self-sustainability. Cleary has co-counseled dozens of cases with The Legal Aid Society, resulting in hundreds of prior criminal convictions being vacated on behalf of survivors of human trafficking. Wherever possible, we have sought to provide holistic services to these clients, taking on immigration cases, custody disputes and government benefits matters in addition to the vacatur motions.
On the civil rights front, in 2015, the firm, along with co-counsel Southern Poverty Law Center and Lite DePalma Greenberg, LLC, obtained a major victory on behalf of plaintiffs in a first-of-its-kind consumer fraud lawsuit against Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH). Following a three week trial, the jury found that JONAH’s “conversion therapy program,” offering services it claimed could turn clients from gay to straight, was fraudulent and unconscionable. The case has helped spark legislation nationwide to protect consumers from conversion therapies.
With respect to protecting the rights of immigrants, Cleary not only helps scores of individuals and families apply for a range of relief each year, but when necessary, we initiate litigation to ensure that the rights of immigrants are protected from government overreach. In 2015 we settled two significant cases, one brought on behalf of an unaccompanied minor who was improperly used by U.S. Customs & Border Protection in a sting operation to catch her smugglers and one on behalf of a four-year old U.S. Citizen child who was improperly detained at Dulles Airport and then sent back to Guatemala rather than reunited with her parents in the United States.
In the years ahead, we look forward to continuing our pro bono efforts and to identifying innovative ways to deploy the talent of our lawyers to make a difference in our communities.
This award is truly a reflection of our long-term partnerships with a range of legal services organizations that are dedicated to expanding access to justice. We would especially like to thank Lawyers Alliance for New York, New York Lawyers for Public Interest and The Legal Aid Society for nominating us for the award. Our nomination -- from these organizations that work tirelessly to advocate on behalf of the most vulnerable individuals and communities -- is itself an honor. We would also like to thank LatinoJustice, Sanctuary for Families, and Southern Poverty Law Center, for supporting Cleary for this award and for all of the guidance that you give us throughout each year on the matters we work on together. Finally, we would like to express our gratitude to Mr. Ndume Olatshuni for his support for this award and for his perseverance and friendship over the years.