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The number of pro bono hours clocked by firms across the District in Pigford v. Veneman is staggering. Covington & Burling has played a dual role, handling its own cases and also farming out cases to other firms. Of approximately 30 Track B cases that needed pro bono lawyers, partner Anthony Herman kept 14 within Covington and sent the rest to other firms. The firm so far has logged more than 8,600 attorney hours and nearly 2,200 summer associate, paralegal, and support staff hours. Two partners and 28 associates have had a hand in Pigford matters. While Covington has put in more time by far, numerous other firms have expended hundreds, and even thousands, of hours as well. Swidler Berlin Shereff Friedman, for example, had 23 Track A and two Track B cases, and attorneys worked on those matters for 2,254 hours. At Arnold & Porter, 17 associates, three partners, and one of counsel put in more than 3,000 hours on the firm’s 17 Track A and one Track B case. Robert Weiner, a partner at A&P, and Crowell & Moring partner Susan Hoffman also helped U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman round up pro bono counsel to assist the farmers. The combination of one partner, 16 associates, three summer associates, and one paralegal at Latham & Watkins logged approximately 2,200 hours on 14 Track A and one Track B matter. At Crowell & Moring, three partners and a number of associates and summer associates logged 908 hours in 12 Track A cases. And Sidley Austin Brown & Wood attorneys spent over 350 hours on its Track A cases, and 150 hours for one Track B case, which garnered a $545,000 award in arbitration for the firm’s farmer. (That award is now on appeal.) “The cases have been much more burdensome than any of us expected,” says Covington’s Herman. Covington associate Rebecca Woods says initially she thought she’d be putting in between 50 and 100 hours. The reality, she says, has been more like 1,000 hours since June 2001 on one Track B case. Fellow associates Donald Ridings and Schmoil Shipchandler have clocked similar numbers on their Track B case. Some associates are finding they cannot make their billable hour requirements while working a Track B case. But a number of firms have backed the attorneys’ work. Ridings estimates he will not hit his billable hour requirement, but says, “Covington has been enormously supportive of this litigation. It’s been treated by other partners as a commitment one and the same as any other case.” While attorneys say some of their hours are propelled higher due to aggressive tactics by the government, considerable time is being spent on rural farms or in research. Latham associate Bart Epstein says he and others went from “county courthouse to county courthouse, searching for records of discrimination.” Pro bono lawyers are being asked to get up to speed on old farm loan programs as well as the sometimes complicated facts and procedures. But as unexpected as the workload has become for the pro bono attorneys, the monitor, who handles all of the Track A and B appeals, has been just as surprised — if not more so. “I didn’t realize that it was going to be this much work,” says Monitor Randi Ilyse Roth, who is also the executive director of Farmers’ Legal Action Group Inc. Much of the work derives from the fact that the consent decree allows parties to supplement the record on appeal — a move that can, for example, mean that one of her 23 attorneys and 11 nonattorneys spends days, or even weeks, reviewing scores of pages of cash flow information submitted for the first time. On top of that, there is also the desire to make sure “all of the documents in every file are reviewed carefully.” Notes Roth: “For each claimant, this is their last chance.”

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