Sidley's Commitment to Pro Bono Representation
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 have a responsibility to protect civil and human rights in this country and throughout the world.
Sidley’s pro bono policy strongly urges all lawyers to devote a significant amount of time to pro bono matters. Sidley subscribes to the ABA’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. 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 2011, Sidley lawyers, legal assistants and staff devoted nearly 100,000 hours to pro bono projects.
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.
Sidley’s firmwide 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 three significant firmwide initiatives, the Capital Litigation Project, the Political Asylum and Immigrants’ Rights Project and the Veterans Benefits Project. In addition to these firmwide projects, Sidley is known nationally for its pro bono work in the Supreme Court and appellate courts throughout the county, and internationally for its work on behalf of the world's poor and lesser-developed countries.
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 each of the cities in which it has offices in a variety of ways -- working in local schools and colleges, as well as helping homeless individuals and youth in local detention centers.
Raising the Bar
March 23, 2012—During a reception in Washington, Sidley was among 23 law firms recognized for donating a total of more than $3 million to local legal service providers as part of the inaugural "Raising the Bar in D.C" fundraiser. Attorney General Eric Holder spoke at the event honoring those firms responding to the D.C. Access to Justice Commission’s call for increased funding for legal services for vulnerable D.C. residents. This initiative reflects the unique obligation that lawyers have to ensure equal access to justice for low-income individuals in their own communities. Sidley’s DC office, which was honored as a silver-level donor, was one of eight law firms that joined in the launch of the Campaign by pledging to donate funds to local legal services providers and by joining the Commission in an appeal to the law firm community.
Pro Bono Week
Sidley lawyer Constantine L. Trela, who is highly active in pro bono legal efforts and who serves on the Advisory Board of the Chicago Volunteer Legal Services Foundation, participated in Chicago’s 7th Annual Pro Bono Week from October 24-28, 2011. The week-long event honored the pro bono efforts of lawyers and educated the public and the legal community about how these lawyers are improving people’s lives through their philanthropy. Read more about Mr. Trela’s participation.
The DC office participated in National Pro Bono Week with a "Go Casual for Justice" event on October 28. Lawyers and staff contributed $5 to wear jeans and an additional $5 to wear sneakers. The proceeds went to the DC Bar Foundation’s Loan Repayment Assistance Program, which helps lawyers working for legal service providers repay their law school loans. Last year, the DC office raised over $5,600 from the event.
Sidley’s Substantial and Diverse Pro Bono Program
Sidley’s commitment to pro bono service is reflected in the diversity and number of matters in which the firm has been involved. In reviewing our nearly 100,000 hours of pro bono service over 2011, we are struck by the impact our work has had on families, and the number of families we have helped stay together or reunite after circumstances tore them apart. In our immigrants' rights cases, we have helped scores of family members reunite, including families from Cameroon, Eritrea, Togo, the Republic of Congo and Uganda. The father of the family from Uganda was tortured for opposing the resident's efforts to end term limits. We obtained cancellation of removal for a man from Poland who had been in the United States since he was a child and who had been acting as a father to his fiancée’s young children. In our family law pro bono cases, we have helped parents obtain custody, child support and restraining orders against abusive partners. Our New York office has worked for many years with inMotion, an organization providing legal services to low income and indigent women and children in domestic crisis. In our landlord tenant work, we have helped clients avoid evictions that would have forced families to break apart to find a place to live. Our work on a habeas petition in a criminal case allowed our innocent client to reunite with his family after 15 years in prison. Finally, Sidley's pro bono services serve families by providing corporate, real estate and other advice to a wide range of organizations, such as New York Cares, Hope in Loss, and Small Steps, School for Parents, that are on the front lines of serving and preserving families. We are extremely proud of all of Sidley's pro bono efforts, but this year, we call special attention to all that Sidley lawyers have done to protect and preserve our clients' families. Click here to view our 2012 Pro Bono and Community Service Report.
Sidley Pro Bono Fellowships
An important component of Sidley’s pro bono work is its fellowship program in the Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. offices. The program 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. While the programs in Sidley’s various offices differ in some respects, the programs all share certain characteristics: Sidley provides a fellowship stipend or pays the salary of the fellows to allow them to work for a nonprofit organization for about 10 weeks.
Recent Recognition of Sidley’s Pro Bono Service
Sidley has received many special awards and much recognition for its pro bono work. Read about some of these recent honors.
Pro Bono Reports
Sidley is proud of its significant tradition of Pro Bono service over the years. Please click here to read our annual pro bono reports.