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June 13, 2022 Top Legal News of the Week

ABA honors two lawyers, three firms for their pro bono work

Two Texas lawyers and three global law firms are this year’s honorees for the American Bar Association Pro Bono Publico Award, which annually recognizes individuals and entities for demonstrating outstanding commitment to volunteer legal services for low-income and disadvantaged persons.

The ABA Pro Bono Publico Awards will be presented Aug. 5 as part of the 2022 ABA Annual Meeting

The ABA Pro Bono Publico Awards will be presented Aug. 5 as part of the 2022 ABA Annual Meeting

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The awards, which began in 1984, represent the top honor given by the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service. They will be presented at an evening reception on Aug. 5 during the 2022 ABA Annual Meeting, which will run from Aug. 3-9 in Chicago.

The two Texas attorneys honored are:

  • Maddy Dwertman, senior associate at Baker Botts LLP, Austin. Since 2018, Dwertman has provided volunteer pro bono services for American Gateways, a central Texas nonprofit whose mission is to champion the dignity and human rights of immigrants, refugees and survivors of persecution, torture, conflict and human trafficking. In the past 2½ years alone, Dwertman has donated more than 865 pro bono hours, with 320 of them during the pandemic year of 2021.
  • Mark Melton, partner at Holland & Knight LLP, Dallas. When COVID-19 first began, Melton realized evictions would be a major issue during the pandemic. He recruited more than 250 Dallas lawyers to help tenants navigate the complex legal process of eviction. Under his leadership, and after more than 2,500 hours of his own pro bono work, the ad hoc, pro bono project has grown into a nonprofit called the Dallas Eviction Advocacy Center and has helped more than 10,000 tenants.

All three of the law firm recipients were saluted for their work on behalf of Afghan refugees, in addition to other pro bono efforts. The firms are:

  • Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP. Akin Gump has a long history of pro bono work, winning a Pro Bono Publico Award in 2012. This year’s award honors the firm’s continued pro bono efforts, especially its innovative use of technology during the pandemic. In 2020, the firm also built an online, remote clinic to serve DACA applicants, then modified it to help Afghan refugees.
  • Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP. Stroock has been a leader in pro bono legal services for more than two decades. In August 2021, drawing upon its deep expertise in disaster relief, Stroock created the Afghanistan Refugee Assistance Task Force, training and deploying rapid-response teams to provide evacuation, immigration and resettlement supports to dozens of Afghans. 
  • Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. Wilson Sonsini has long been active in civil rights and immigration pro bono. In recent years, the firm has substantially increased its pro bono reach, including providing ongoing assistance to Ukrainian and Afghan refugees and representing a large class of vulnerable Medicare beneficiaries in a successful trial.

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