Pro Bono 
Support. Protect. Advocate.

Pro Bono
 

Our firm’s commitment to doing work for the public good manifests through the pro bono efforts of lawyers in every one of our global offices. We take on matters impacting individuals or small groups as well as litigation driving large-scale societal change. We also advocate for nonprofit organizations and low-income entrepreneurs working to better the lives of those in their communities.

 

At Morgan Lewis, our commitment to pro bono runs deep. This is reflected in how our work, guided by a dedicated team of pro bono professionals, receives equal status as every other practice—each matter tackled with the same urgency and resolve as our billed representations.

We’re All In (Literally)

In 2022 and for the fifth consecutive year, 100% of our nearly 2,000 lawyers met our Pro Bono Challenge by devoting at least 20 billable hours—with many far exceeding that number—to pro bono work. This extraordinary dedication across our entire firm is one of our deepest sources of pride.

Community Impact Week

Thousands of lawyers and staff across our firm come together every year for a focused period of special programming tackling a critical issue that affects our pro bono clients.

Mobilizing for Equality

As a law firm, we’re determined to use our power to ensure justice. In the somber aftermath of George Floyd's murder at the hands of a police officer—against the backdrop of a rising tide of intolerance, inequality, and brutality—Morgan Lewis resolved to do our part to answer the call. We launched Mobilizing for Equality (MFE) to reflect our commitment to more forcefully combat racial injustice and unite in the movement for equality for all. Since that time, 14 MFE working groups have been executing on substantive racial justice projects. This includes our Racial Justice Pro Bono working group, which provides pro bono legal services to racially disadvantaged individuals and legal services organizations with racial justice missions.

#1, Best Law Firms for Pro Bono
Vault
#1, Breadth of Commitment,
Pro Bono Scorecard
The American Lawyer
Gold Law Firm Award & Distinguished Pro Bono Law Firm Award
Law Society of Hong Kong
 
Champion of Education Award
Learning Rights Law Center
Law Firm of the Year
Public Law Center
Civil Liberties Award
American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California
 
Pro Bono Initiative of the Year
The Lawyer
Champion of Justice Award
OneJustice
Pro Bono Hot List
The National Law Journal
 

Our alliances with pro bono legal services organizations forge lasting relationships that allow us to extend the reach and benefit of our resources to tackle our clients’ most pressing issues.

Pro Bono

From defending voting rights, to securing the rightful benefits of veterans, to supporting children and assisting the elderly, we join forces with legal services organizations to address the most urgent challenges facing our communities.

We are honored to join in common cause with legal services organizations to advocate for pro bono clients and their communities. Below are just a few examples of our pro bono alliances.

 

Equal Justice Works Fellowships

We sponsor law school graduates for fellowships at Equal Justice Works, a nonprofit bringing together an expansive network of law students, lawyers, legal services organizations, and supporters to instill a lifelong dedication to public service and equal justice. For example, one of our fellows is helping to expand immigration services for older teens in an underserved region of Washington State through direct representation, community outreach, and pro bono partnerships.

Secondment Program

Our firm catalyzes associate secondment opportunities to nonprofit organizations within our network of established partners. During a seven-month secondment at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, for example, one of our associates supported litigation defending the results of the 2020 election in several states and helped safeguard access to voter registration while another contributed to the creation of an assistance program for nonprofits needing help navigating commercial leasing issues.

We partner with our corporate clients around the world—from startups to multinationals—on pro bono matters involving voting rights, criminal justice, minority-owned small businesses, immigration, housing preservation, and other important issues. We also share our experience in helping launch, develop, and nurture successful pro bono programs at our clients’ companies, offer training for in-house pro bono teams, and connect clients with outstanding legal services organizations from our extensive network.

Law.com International Recognizes Morgan Lewis for UK Pro Bono Work

Morgan Lewis has been included among the top 25 law firms for pro bono work in the United Kingdom by Law.com International. In compiling its annual UK Pro Bono Rankings, the publication measures the total number of pro bono hours worked and percentage of lawyers who took part in pro bono matters.

Morgan Lewis Earns Top Pro Bono Ranking from The American Lawyer for Breadth of Commitment

Morgan Lewis has been recognized by The American Lawyer’s Pro Bono Scorecard among the law firms most committed to providing pro bono legal services in 2021.

Primary Contacts
Rachel L. Strong
Senior Pro Bono Counsel
Andrea J. Fitanides
Pro Bono Counsel
Namita E. Mani
Pro Bono Counsel
Alison Sclater
Pro Bono Counsel

Our pro bono work takes us around the world, granting us the privilege to help people from all walks of life and in countless adverse situations. Below are just a few of these extraordinary stories—with more chapters being written every day.

Concert

Crucial Immigration Advice for Ukraine Fundraising Event

The Ukrainian 2016 Eurovision song contest winner, Jamala, recently fled Kiev and has been singing to raise money for her home country. A Morgan Lewis team in London provided urgent immigration counsel to enable the singer to perform at Concert for Ukraine, a live TV charity fundraiser that took place in Birmingham, England.

Compressing a process that would ordinarily take eight weeks, Morgan Lewis lawyers liaised with senior members of the UK Home Office and UK Music to secure visas for Jamala and her manager in less than 24 hours. As a result, Jamala was able to perform at the concert among artists that included Ed Sheeran, Snow Patrol and Camila Cabello.

The concert raised more than £13.4 million (nearly $18 million), which went to the Disasters Emergency Committee’s (DEC) Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal. DEC, an umbrella group of UK charities, raises funds to provide emergency aid and rapid relief to people caught up in disasters and humanitarian crises around the world.

To read more about this matter, see reporting in The Legal Diary.

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Family

Securing Citizenship for Children of Same-Sex Parents

A Morgan Lewis team won a pair of critical court rulings validating the US citizenship of children born abroad to married same-sex couples. The rulings have helped the couples and their children enjoy the same rights as other citizens, giving them peace of mind and the assurance that they can remain together as a family in the United States.

In each case, the child was born to a surrogate mother outside of the country and was biologically related to one of their two fathers, both of whom were US citizens. However, the US Department of State denied passports to both newborns, contending they were born “out of wedlock,” under the theory that a child must have a biological relationship with both married parents to secure automatic birthright citizenship. This theory excludes all children of same-sex couples unless they meet the heightened citizenship standards that apply to children born to unmarried couples.

In both Kiviti v. Pompeo and Mize v. Pompeo, our team worked with nonprofit organizations Lambda Legal and Immigration Equality to secure federal court rulings requiring the US government to recognize the children’s citizenship and issue passports to the youngsters. Under the Acting Solicitor General’s direction, the US Department of Justice withdrew the appeal of the Kiviti case that was already pending before the Fourth Circuit and let its deadline to appeal the Mize case to the Eleventh Circuit pass without filing anything. As a result, both children have definitive rulings that they are US citizens and newly issued US passports.

Due in part to our efforts, the US Department of State later reversed the policy that denied citizenship to some babies born abroad to same-sex parents, effectively guaranteeing that US and binational couples who use assisted reproductive technology to give birth overseas—such as surrogacy or sperm donation—can pass along citizenship to their children.

For this and other impactful work demonstrating senior pro bono trial lawyer Susan Baker Manninglifetime commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, she was recognized by The Minority Corporate Counsel Association with its Paula L. Ettelbrick Award.

To read more about this matter, see reporting in Law360, Washington Blade, Advocate, Above the Law, CNN, and Reuters and on this podcast.

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Police

MFE Team & Quattrone Center Probe Madison Police Practices

A significant early success of our Mobilizing for Equality (MFE) initiative was our collaboration with the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School to review police practices in Madison, Wisconsin—the scene of protests and violence in the wake of the 2020 murder of George Floyd by a Minnesota police officer.

The Quattrone Center is a nonpartisan national research and policy hub concentrating on identifying potential improvements in the criminal legal system. Working alongside our MFE Law Enforcement Policy Working Group, the Quattrone Center produced a commissioned review of the policing practices in Madison, concentrating on its response to protests in the wake of the George Floyd tragedy.

Over a period of six months (representing more than 3,000 pro bono hours) our cross-practice Morgan Lewis MFE team gathered and analyzed thousands of data points. The Quattrone Center, working with Morgan Lewis and a diverse group of community and law-enforcement stakeholders, incorporated the results into its Sentinel Event Review report on policing practices in Madison, a review requested by the city’s police chief.

The report identified specific incidents occurring during the police response and violence that erupted in Madison following the Floyd tragedy and looked at contributing factors. The document provided nearly 70 recommendations on evaluating the resources available to police and suggested improvements such as expanding protest-facilitation training for all officers and naming community representatives to enhance communication with protesters.

More than 50 Morgan Lewis lawyers and eData technology and operations team members supported the project by reviewing thousands of pages of police reports and policies; analyzing 700-plus hours of video footage (closed-circuit TV, body camera, drone, and publicly available video) and audio from the Madison police and dispatch of the incidents in question; interviewing Madison officers; presenting at stakeholder meetings; and helping draft the final Safety Evaluation Report. Our critical contributions to the report will help Madison residents and police work together to safely exercise and protect the First Amendment freedoms of the community.

To read more about this matter, see reporting in The Badger Herald and The Daily Pennsylvanian.

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Food Stamps

$700 Million Obtained for Pennsylvanians on Food Stamps

More than 650,000 Pennsylvanian households that struggled to make ends meet during COVID-19 benefited from a significant settlement that Morgan Lewis—in conjunction with a nonprofit—reached with the US government. Beyond the $700 million-plus in emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits obtained, the US Department of Agriculture revised its guidance that had blocked the benefits, further expanding the impact of the victory.

Morgan Lewis worked in conjunction with Community Legal Services of Philadelphia to secure the pro bono victory regarding the SNAP benefits, commonly known as food stamps. We negotiated a settlement with the USDA securing the emergency benefits for Pennsylvanians under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). In the case, Gilliam v. USDA, the plaintiffs challenged the USDA’s guidance interpreting the FFCRA that had deprived nearly 40% of Pennsylvania’s poorest residents of the benefits.

Initially, the plaintiffs won a preliminary injunction in federal court prohibiting the USDA from applying its interpretation of the FFCRA. The USDA appealed and threatened to seek recovery of any emergency benefits paid under the injunction, effectively preventing their distribution. However, under the settlement, more than $700 million in funds allocated by the USDA to Pennsylvania was made available for distribution, and the USDA agreed to revise its guidance that was challenged in the litigation.

Morgan Lewis received the 2022 Excellence Award from Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network, and partner John Lavelle received the Philadelphia Bar Association’s 2021 Citizens Bank Achievement Award for advocating on behalf of Pennsylvanian households.

In the News

To learn more about this matter, see the story on Pittsburgh’s NPR station, WESA.

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Morgan Lewis & ROCKius

Battle Tested: One Band’s Efforts to Protect Domestic Violence Survivors and Children

Morgan Lewis & ROCKius, our firm band, helped raise more than $95,000, beating out six other law firm bands at the Banding Together to End Domestic Violence concert and securing the coveted Judge’s Choice Award in support of the Family Violence Appellate Project (FVAP).

The firm’s award-winning musical ensemble earned the privilege of performing at the 10th annual battle-of-the-bands fundraiser after winning first place at a Law Rocks San Francisco fundraising event and surpassing a $30,000 fundraising goal to benefit Child Advocates of Silicon Valley.

FVAP is dedicated to representing domestic violence survivors in civil legal appeals cases at no cost. The firm has worked with FVAP on a pro bono basis for many years, including by serving as counsel in child custody and domestic violence appellate court trials. When not directly involved in FVAP cases, our lawyers volunteer their time to help FVAP co-counsel prepare for oral argument by participating in moot court sessions and assessing domestic violence cases for potential appeals.

Morgan Lewis & ROCKius started in 2015 as a fun way for our Northern California lawyers to share their creative talents. The band typically includes nine members from the firm with outside help from family and friends, and its winnings go to nonprofits and charitable causes that the firm supports.

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Released

Winning Release for a Man Wrongfully Convicted of Murder

Working with the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, a Morgan Lewis team secured the release of Pennsylvanian Andrew Swainson, who spent more than 30 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. The victory for our client culminated more than seven years of work. A few months after release, Mr. Swainson wed his fiancé of 34 years.

Mr. Swainson had been serving a sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole when Morgan Lewis teamed with the nonprofit Innocence Project to reverse the miscarriage of justice. Ultimately, a court vacated Mr. Swainson’s conviction for the 1988 murder.

The court’s decision was handed down after the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office and the Philadelphia Conviction Integrity Unit agreed, based on evidence and arguments by our team, that numerous problems had tainted the conviction. These included false eyewitness testimony, undisclosed incentives made to a witness, and constitutional due-process violations. During a virtual hearing, our client’s charges were downgraded to third-degree murder.

Later that day, Mr. Swainson was released from the State Correctional Institution at Dallas in Pennsylvania, spending his first night as a free man in more than three decades. The DA’s office subsequently filed a motion to dismiss the charges against him.

A few months later, the lead Morgan Lewis partner in the case, Nate Andrisani, served as the best man in Mr. Swainson’s wedding as he married Maxine Loban, who had waited 34 years for that moment. Morgan Lewis also helped to raise more than $14,000 in gift-card donations to help the couple get started on their new life together.

Nate received the Pennsylvania Innocence Project’s Nathan Edward D. Ohlbaum Volunteer Award.

To read more about this matter, see reporting in the Philadelphia Inquirer and Law360.

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Protecting Kids

Protecting Kids from Widespread Use of Psychotropic Drugs

Following more than three years of hard-fought litigation, a Morgan Lewis team working with three nonprofits secured a landmark settlement that overhauled Missouri’s administration of psychotropic medications to as many as 13,000 foster children. The outcome set a strong legal precedent that could lead to greater protection of foster children nationwide.

Working with the St. Louis University School of Law Legal Clinic, Children’s Rights Inc., and the National Center for Youth Law, our team engaged in the first federal class action, M.B. v. Tidball, to shine a spotlight exclusively on the widespread use of psychotropic drugs in children in state care. The civil rights lawsuit alleged “a longstanding failure by the state to provide adequate oversight in the administration of powerful psychotropic medications to children in foster care.” Under the team’s novel class action theory, the state of Missouri violated the constitutional rights of class members—defined as children in foster care in the state—by failing to employ a system that maintained accurate medical records and monitored whether the administration of multiple psychotropic medications was appropriate.

Morgan Lewis developed the factual case and took the lead on the appeal of the court’s decision to certify a class. After it became clear that the certification of the class was likely to survive the appeal, the team negotiated a settlement establishing fundamental protocols and safeguards preventing improper and indiscriminate administration of medication that could harm foster children’s mental and physical well-being.

The settlement resolved the lawsuit in the US District Court for the Western District of Missouri and the court awarded a putative class of children and youths in Missouri’s care and plaintiffs’ counsel (including Morgan Lewis) more than $3.25 million in fees and expenses. The award was later affirmed by the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. The firm’s portion of the fees were directed to our self-sustained ML Foundation program, which promotes diversity and inclusion within the legal profession, including through a scholarship program.

In the News

To read more about this matter, see reporting in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and St. Louis Public Radio.

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Domestic Abuse Assistance

London Office Assists Domestic Abuse Victims During Pandemic

As COVID-19 triggered lockdowns in many countries, officials and victims’ advocates noted an alarming rise in domestic violence, seeing an increase in homes where it already existed and its inception in families previously untouched by violence. This disturbing development prompted 30 Morgan Lewis lawyers from our London office—including partners, associates, and trainees—to heed the call for help from the UK’s National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV).

Our Morgan Lewis team devoted upward of 1,300 hours of pro bono service working on 67 NCDV cases. At the height of the emerging pandemic, volunteer lawyers assisted remotely on 33 cases.

One case stands out as an example of our work: Two of our volunteers assisted a domestic abuse victim in obtaining an emergency injunction from the UK family courts. This gave the victim protection from her estranged daughter, who had subjected our client to physical violence and verbal and emotional abuse intermittently over a period of several years, reaching an apex as the pandemic raged. Following various instances of abuse at our client’s home and place of work, our client was trapped due to UK lockdown measures. As the abuse victim explained to our volunteers, she was “in a constant state of fear, living with one eye over [her] shoulder.”

Our volunteers helped the abuse victim prepare the necessary court paperwork. They assisted our client remotely and under time pressure, advising on the various and ever-changing pandemic-related procedural rules governing the operations of the UK family courts. After two hearings, the UK family courts granted the injunction and our client received protection from her abuser.

Morgan Lewis was ranked eighth out of 25 firms by Law.com International/Legal Week on its UK Pro Bono Rankings 2020 list, with special mention given to our assistance on domestic violence cases through the NCDV.

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Just as pro bono work is universally embraced by our lawyers, the range of disciplines, subject matter mastery, and practice depth they bring to helping our pro bono clients is equally comprehensive. Beyond aiding individuals in need across a broad spectrum of legal and business issues, we devote Morgan Lewis’s expansive resources to tackling widespread and deeply entrenched societal concerns.

Protecting Immigrants & Refugees

Protecting Immigrants & Refugees

We serve people fleeing persecution overseas, undocumented and unaccompanied minors, women whose immigration status is dependent on an abusive spouse, and victims of human trafficking and other crimes. Assisting immigrant children is a hallmark of our practice.

Advocating for Social Justice & Racial Equality

Advocating for Social Justice & Racial Equality

Following the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer, Morgan Lewis launched Mobilizing for Equality (MFE) to enable us to more directly, effectively, and aggressively mobilize against racial injustice. Our 14 MFE working groups tackle many facets of this societal problem, including policing, criminal legal system reform, voting rights, education, and more.

Fighting for Children

Fighting for Children

We strengthen the rights of vulnerable children by representing them and their caregivers on a wide range of issues. Our clients include unaccompanied minors fleeing persecution, parents seeking educational plans for their children, children in high-conflict custody cases, and nonprofits in class actions seeking to ensure access to education. We also represent nonprofits that advocate on behalf of children.

Defending Voting Rights & Election Integrity

Defending Voting Rights & Election Integrity

Protecting voting rights and ballot access have long been priorities for Morgan Lewis. We ally with legal service providers and other nonprofits to carry out projects that help safeguard democracy, including informing voters of early voting and vote-by-mail, manning call centers to advise on elections questions, and working post-election to ensure all legal ballots are counted.

Safeguarding Shelter

Safeguarding Shelter

We represent low-income tenants at risk of eviction through direct representation and through our work at the DC Superior Court Landlord-Tenant Resource Center. Having a lawyer in an eviction proceeding exponentially increases the chances that a tenant will be able to remain in their home and enhances their stability in ways that impact all other aspects of their lives, including job retention, educational consistency, and mental health.

Supporting Sustainability

Supporting Sustainability

We provide pro bono assistance to nonprofits and small businesses working on sustainability and environmental issues. Our clients include organizations promoting technology recycling and removing regulatory barriers to the development of microgrids. We are a committed member of Lawyers for a Sustainable Economy, through which we will provide $500,000 in free legal services on sustainability matters over a two-year period.

Guarding Civil Liberties & Civil Rights

Guarding Civil Liberties & Civil Rights

Our work on civil liberties matters is diverse and substantial. It includes appellate-level First Amendment advocacy, a significant prisoners’ rights practice, an international human rights practice, marriage equality impact litigation, and a nationally recognized death penalty practice.

Securing Equality for the LGBTQ+ Community

Securing Equality for the LGBTQ+ Community

We strengthen our resolve to protect and enhance the rights of those in the LGBTQ+ community through individual representation and impact litigation. Our work includes LGBTQ+ advocacy involving immigration, marriage equality, healthcare, military service, name change, and prisoners’ rights, among others.

Assisting Nonprofits in Our Communities

Assisting Nonprofits in Our Communities

Not-for-profit and nongovernmental organizations turn to us for assistance in maintaining their day-to-day operations to help unleash their capacity to do good works. We provide a full range of business law services including corporate governance work, intellectual property counseling, transactional assistance, and labor and employment advice.

Sustaining Small Businesses & Entrepreneurs

Sustaining Small Businesses & Entrepreneurs

We counsel small business and low-income entrepreneurs operating in disadvantaged areas on a range of business law issues, including entity selection, contract review, and employment matters.

Promoting Access to Education

Promoting Access to Education

Promoting access to education has long been a mainstay of our pro bono work, and it has often been at center stage of our Community Impact Week activities. We also partner with and provide legal support to nonprofit organizations engaged in educational funding and access and have successfully litigated education-related cases to ensure students’ access to legally required programs.

Standing Up for Veterans

Standing Up for Veterans

Our lawyers regularly handle individual veterans’ benefits matters before the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and we play a substantial role in driving how the VA benefits landscape is shaped across the United States via class action litigation. We also provide significant administrative assistance to veterans’ organizations.

Morgan Lewis Receives Excellence in Pro Bono Service Award from Legal Services for Children

Morgan Lewis has been honored by Legal Services for Children with the organization’s Excellence in Pro Bono Service award in recognition of the significant pro bono contributions of the firm’s California lawyers in 2021.

Of Counsel Laura Lerner Named Yaf’s First Pro Bono Attorney Of The Year

Of counsel Laura Lerner was recognized by the Youth Advocacy Foundation as its inaugural Pro Bono Attorney of the Year. The organization works to defend the education rights of Massachusetts’ most vulnerable youth.

Associate Kevin Benedicto Receives Bar Association Of San Francisco Merit Award

Associate Kevin Benedicto was named by The Bar Association of San Francisco as a 2021 Award of Merit honoree for his contributions and work in criminal justice reform, diversity and inclusion, and pro bono.

Partner John Lavelle Receives Philadelphia Bar’s Citizens Bank Achievement Award

Partner John Lavelle was recognized by the Philadelphia Bar Association with its 2021 Citizens Bank Achievement Award for his significant accomplishments in improving the administration of justice in Pennsylvania.