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Summer, 2004

Local Stewardship
Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw LLP

For all the strength that an international pro bono program can provide a firm, local stewardship is ultimately the answer to making each office's program work. Philip Lacovara came to this conclusion more than two years ago, when, as members of the firm Pro Bono Committee, they decided to "ramp up" the New York office's pro bono activities.

They began by enlisting key New York transactional lawyer Andrea Schwartzman from Corporate to balance the existing litigation skew of the program. They then sought to consolidate existing relationships with outside agencies to create a more coherent program. Chief among the agencies were the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, which tackles problems facing low-income and underrepresented individuals throughout New York City, and the Lawyers Alliance for New York, which provides mostly transactional opportunities such as helping incorporate community or arts groups.

They also targeted agencies to receive financial contributions. These include the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, Human Rights First, Legal Aid of New York, and the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Eventually, New York Manager of Associate Development, Marla Feinman, was brought on as the Committee's administrative coordinator. Marla tracks the budget and new pro bono matters, and coordinates the Committee's sponsorship of activities. The Committee holds an annual pro bono luncheon for new associates and, separately, for summer associates, where firm associates speak of their own experiences doing pro bono work. For example, recently NYO associate Matt Ingber described his work on a prisoners' civil rights case which culminated in a five-day jury trial in the Southern District of New York. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Matt's client and awarded him $15,000 in punitive damages.

The New York Pro Bono Committee has also sponsored an Equal Justice Works Fellow, Camille Carey for the past 4 years. Camille has been the subject of earlier Update stories. New York was also an early participant in Probono.net (see related story, "Prisoners' Rights").

Besides centralizing the New York effort to create a more efficient process, according to Marla, a local committee "heightens awareness of pro bono activities and gives our people a closer sense of community contribution."

NYO Partner in Charge Tom Vitale is a strong supporter of the program and recognizes the value it provides the firm in reinforcing its presence as a New York citizen.

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