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Pro Bono

Sidley's Commitment to Pro Bono and Community Service

Sidley lawyers recognize their profound responsibility to use their training, skills and experience to provide legal services to the poor and to charitable, religious, community, governmental and educational organizations that otherwise would be unable to afford legal representation. Sidley lawyers also work to protect civil and human rights in this country and throughout the world. Sidley’s pro bono program is not bound by political or ideological restrictions, and we encourage our lawyers to bring pro bono matters into the Firm to ensure that their pro bono work is rewarding and satisfying. Sidley is proud of its significant tradition of pro bono service over the years, which is only partially reflected in our annual pro bono reports. Please click here to read our annual pro bono reports.

Sidley’s pro bono policy strongly urges all lawyers to devote a significant amount of time to pro bono matters. Sidley subscribes to the Pro Bono Institute’s Pro Bono Challenge and has pledged to use its best efforts to contribute annually in pro bono work an amount of time equal to three percent of the firm’s total billable hours, or 60 hours. Sidley has met that goal for the last seven years. In determining the compensation of lawyers and in evaluating associates’ performance, legal work undertaken for the firm’s pro bono clients is considered the same as comparable work for the firm’s paying clients—there are no limits on pro bono hours. In 2013, Sidley lawyers, legal assistants and staff devoted over 100,000 hours to pro bono projects.

Sidley’s firm-wide Committee on Pro Bono and Public Interest Law coordinates the pro bono practice and makes recommendations to the Firm’s governing committees regarding matters of firm pro bono policy. The Committee was instrumental in implementing our four significant firm-wide initiatives, the Capital Litigation Project, the Political Asylum and Immigrants’ Rights Project, the Veterans Benefits Project and the Africa-Asia Agricultural Enterprise Program. In addition to these firm-wide projects, Sidley has served pro bono clients in virtually every area of the law, from individual actions to recover disability benefits and child support to major cases affecting voting rights and marriage equality across the country. Another important component of Sidley’s pro bono work is its fellowship program, which allows associates to work at nonprofit organizations in the community either before they begin working at the firm or, in the case of the New York office, after they have joined the firm.

The Firm recognizes pro bono contributions by individual lawyers in a number of ways. Our Chicago office presents its annual Thomas H. Morsch Pro Bono Awards for outstanding pro bono work and publishes a list of lawyers who have performed over 60 hours of pro bono work in a given year. The Washington, D.C. office presents the Vincent Prada Pro Bono Awards, honoring those lawyers and legal assistants who devote more than 60 hours to pro bono clients. Our Los Angeles office also honors lawyers who have significant pro bono accomplishments and have devoted substantial time to pro bono in a pro bono awards ceremony each summer. Sidley lawyers also have been widely recognized for their pro bono service by organizations around the country. Read about some of these recent honors.

The spirit that drives Sidley lawyers to spend thousands of hours providing pro bono services extends beyond the courtroom. Sidley contributes to the broader community in both time and money in each of the cities in which it has offices in a variety of ways -- working in local schools, colleges, and law schools, as well as helping homeless individuals, mentoring youth in detention, and providing gifts to needy children over the holidays.

Recent Pro Bono Highlights

In 2012, we launched our fourth firm-wide – and our first global – pro bono initiative. Led by lawyers in our Geneva and Brussels offices, the Africa-Asia Agricultural Enterprise Program recognizes the critical role lawyers can play in helping those in developing countries who produce agricultural goods get their products to market and thereby improve the livelihoods of the world’s poorest farmers and other producers and their communities. In creating this program, we recognized that it takes a broad mix of experience and knowledge to provide the holistic services that farmers and small agricultural businesses need to compete in global markets. To that end, we have formed teams of lawyers from all of our offices around the world to provide intellectual property, licensing, contract, financing, export control, international trade, and regulatory advice to our new clients. We also are joining forces with our corporate clients around the world to serve our pro bono clients, recognizing that their in-house lawyers fully share our own commitment to pro bono service.

In the last year we also expanded our commitment to our ongoing firm-wide projects – Capital Litigation, Political Asylum and Immigrants’ Rights, and Veterans Benefits – and our other pro bono work in all of our offices around the world, including an increasing number of significant pro bono matters in appellate courts and in the United States Supreme Court. We know that our pro bono work has improved the lives of many people across the country and around the world. We also know that our pro bono service has made us better lawyers and better people, as we use the power of the law to move us toward a more humane world.

Sidley's first office on the third floor of the Marine Bank Building at Lake and La Salle Streets in Chicago in 1866. Photo Credit: Chicago History Museum color reproduction of Lithograph; ICHi-63077; Jevne and Almini Lithograph: Marine Bank Building; Chicago, IL; 1866; Lithographer Jevne and Almini. Image has been cropped for this usage.