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“I have heard countless stories from friends who were stopped by the police for no reason,” said Debevoise & Plimpton senior associate Natalie Williams. Williams, who grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., is the firm’s leader in a class action against the city of New York. It alleges that the Police Department’s Street Crimes Unit has a policy of stopping and frisking black and Latino men in violation of their constitutional rights. How does a big law firm take on the Big Apple? Debevoise pro bono chairman John Kiernan noted that this is not the first time the firm has done so. He said that once the case passed a conflicts check, the firm treated it like any other pro bono project. The suit came to the firm via an invitation from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR). An associate floated a query by Kiernan. He approved the proposal and sent out an e-mail to see if any attorneys at the firm were interested. Williams said that her personal experience with the problem prompted her to volunteer.

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