News & Insights


Pro Bono Report 2016

In 2016, we celebrated Sidley’s 150th anniversary as a firm. Our firm’s story began on October 1, 1866, when Civil War veterans Norman Williams and John Leverett Thompson formed a partnership to practice law together, fulfilling a pact made in their college days. As we look back on our 150-year history, we proudly recognize that from our earliest days, Sidley has maintained a tradition of pro bono and community service.

In November, President Barack Obama—a Sidley alum—presented Sidley lawyer Newt Minow with the Presidential Medal of Freedom to honor his long and distinguished career in public life, including serving as the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. At the award ceremony, President Obama remarked:

“Now, every journalist in the room, every media critic knows the phrase Newt Minow coined: the 'vast wasteland.' But the two words Newt prefers we remember from his speech to the nation’s broadcasters are these: 'public interest.' That’s been the heartbeat of his life’s work—advocating for residents of public housing, advising a governor and Supreme Court justice, cementing presidential debates as our national institution, leading the FCC.”

We continue that tradition of pro bono and public interest service, and as our firm has grown, so has the reach of our pro bono efforts. From Alabama to Arizona, Colombia to Madagascar, Sidley lawyers and staff devoted over 120,000 hours last year to serve those most in need. We recognize the work of those lawyers and staff with this extensive report.

Ultimately, our pro bono work is about the people we serve. Our clients include veterans needing assistance in obtaining the benefits they earned during their service to our country, women needing protection from abuse and families trying to secure safe, affordable housing. We helped protect the constitutional rights of clients who are incarcerated, including the rights of inmates on death row in Arizona to be free from cruel and unusual punishment through a landmark settlement with the state of Arizona on lethal injection protocols. Through our work with the Clemency Project, we helped federal prisoners sentenced to unreasonably long prison terms return home to their families sooner. Through our asylum and immigrants’ rights work, we helped immigrants who fled their home countries seeking religious freedom, escaping domestic violence and gang violence and looking for a safe place to live. In our Emerging Enterprise Program, our clients included women trying to make a better life for themselves and their families by starting businesses in developing countries. The cover of this report honors but a few of those cherished clients.

Sidley’s tradition of pro bono and public interest continues, and we continue to be inspired by the service of our colleagues and the strength of our pro bono clients.