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If it looks like Holland & Knight is inventing its new pro bono fellowship program as it goes along, well, that’s because it is. “We are absolutely learning as we’re going,” says D.C.-based pro bono partner Stephen Hanlon. The Chesterfield Smith Community Service Fellows — named after firm founding father Chesterfield Smith — are H&K associates housed in the firm’s offices who work full-time on pro bono cases for two years and then switch over to the firm’s billable work. Throughout the program, the fellows are paid like their billing colleagues and stay on the partnership track. An admirable goal — to pay associates top dollar for free legal work — but it’s taken some time to put things in place. Three years after the program’s inception, the firm is just now sending out agreements to legal aid groups that work as co-counsel with the fellows. The first group of fellows — six practicing attorneys and two law students — are, to some degree, still finding their place in the firm. For Jennifer Mason, the trick at first was even finding cases for her to work on, says Hanlon. “There wasn’t an existing pipeline of cases. Now, we’ve got her doing too much.” Despite the growing pains, the fledgling program appears to be working. Mason, who says she “wanted to learn how to litigate cases,” just finished her first trial and, on Oct. 31, filed another suit — against the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The fellowship also gives the firm a boost in recruiting top candidates. The fellows include a former U.S. Supreme Court clerk — Mason — and a Rhodes scholar. Half graduated or will graduate from Yale Law School. After hearing about the fellowship while clerking for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Mason didn’t wait to be recruited. Instead, she recalls, “I called Steve out of the blue.” “Holland & Knight is now a national law firm. We haven’t always been a national law firm,” says Hanlon. “Recruiting at the U.S. Supreme Court or recruiting at Ivy League schools is a new experience.” Indeed, the entire fellowship program is a new experience for the firm. Before the fellowships, Holland & Knight’s pro bono work was funneled through the firm’s community services team, which was established in 1990. While any attorney in the firm can still do pro bono work, the fellows do nothing but pro bono. They also record their time, just like they would for any billable client, and Hanlon keeps track of their hours. In Mason’s case, her pro bono gig has meant everything from serving as a guardian ad litem for a neglected boy and helping a woman adopt her foster child to suing the INS for alleged civil rights violations. In the latest case, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Mason and the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights represent Malik Jarno. According to the lawsuit, Jarno fled Guinea after the government killed his father, brother, and uncle. But when he arrived at Dulles Airport on Jan. 28, 2001, he was detained and allegedly did not see an immigration judge for eight months. The complaint also alleges that Jarno, a teen-ager with an IQ of 47, was placed in adult facilities and assaulted by guards. As of press time, the government had not filed a response, and a spokesman for the INS declined to comment. For another fellow, Rhodes scholar Gretchen Rohr, full-time work has not yet begun; she’s a student at Georgetown University Law Center. But she has a hand in a civil rights case filed Nov. 18 in Alabama. There, H&K paired up with Atlanta’s Southern Center for Human Rights to sue members of the Alabama Department of Corrections and staff at the Limestone Correctional Facility. The suit in the Northern District of Alabama claims that Limestone officials “have failed to provide [HIV-positive prisoners] even a minimal level of acceptable medical treatment and living conditions that would limit exposure to serious illnesses and infections.” No answer has been filed by state or prison officials yet. Rohr will continue to assist part-time on this case until she graduates in May. After that, she’ll head down to H&K’s Atlanta office and, she says, the prisoners’ suit “is probably a case they’ll place me on.” And that’s fine with Rohr, who originally heard about the Smith fellowship while working at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. The program, its cases, and what the firm has to offer, says Rohr, are “in step with my broader goals.” TAXING TIME A center for children in Anacostia gets to keep its building, thanks to the D.C. office of Proskauer Rose — and a bit of fortuitous timing. Back in the late 1990s, the Anti-Defamation League, working with Proskauer Rose, identified the Children of Mine Youth Center, located in the Southeast Neighborhood House, as a good spot to build a playground. While doing background work on the children’s center on behalf of the ADL, Proskauer discovered that “the city was about to take the deed” for nonpayment of taxes, says Proskauer partner Warren Dennis. “It was on the verge of ending up on the city’s tax rolls and becoming an abandoned property. “We stepped in on a pro bono basis to do what we thought would be fairly simple: straightening out the deed,” he says. That was three years ago. After bouncing around from D.C. bureaucrat to D.C. bureaucrat and from the Internal Revenue Service back to the D.C. government, the firm finally “worked out a very complicated settlement,” says Dennis, who was assisted by associate Amybeth Garc�a-Bokor. Southeast Neighborhood House had let its tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status lapse, which is why it had been taxed. Proskauer attorneys fixed that problem and last month persuaded the D.C. Council to approve the SENH Property Tax Exemption and Equitable Real Property Tax Relief Emergency Declaration Resolution of 2002, which abates thousands of dollars of back property taxes. The deed was then given to Southeast Neighborhood House for $1 and Children of Mine entered into a “long, long-term lease with SENH,” says Dennis. The next step for the center will be to fund-raise and renovate, activities that were hard to do when it was on the verge of closure. And the playground? “Independent of us, the [Washington] Wizards put in a playground last year,” says Dennis. BAZELON HONORS Three firms were honored by the Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law. Howrey Simon Arnold & White; Shea & Gardner; and Swidler Berlin Shereff Friedman received accolades at a Nov. 14 reception honoring the center’s 30th anniversary. STAR POWER Best-selling author John Grisham, who spent time at the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty doing research for The Street Lawyer, is lending his name to the group’s fund raising. In a Nov. 8 letter, Grisham discusses his own “commitment to working toward the end of homelessness.” He implores would-be donors to help center staff members “continue their efforts to press for policies that provide homeless people the assistance and rights they need to realize self-sufficiency.” PRO BONO RAFFLE The D.C. office of Latham & Watkins held its annual Thanksgiving lunch on Nov. 21, complete with a pie-eating contest. But it wasn’t all gluttony. Raffle tickets were sold, and $5,000 went to the Good Samaritan Foundation, a pro bono client. The foundation, which offers training opportunities and resources to local students, uses the money to help students’ families have a Thanksgiving dinner. As for the pie-eating contest, Emerson Castillo, in Latham’s office services department, took home the top prize. ACCESS LexisNexis donated $150,000 in software to the D.C.-based Legal Services Corp. “Access to justice . . . is a goal LexisNexis is committed to supporting financially,” Lou Andreozzi, chief executive officer of North American legal markets for LexisNexis, said in a statement. “Pro Bono Bulletin Board” appears on the first Monday of every month.

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