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Over the last several months the New York City corporation counsel put out a plea for help, and the city’s legal community has responded in force. The result has been an upsurge in the number of law firms committed to loaning the city a lawyer for a six-month stint — from two to 10 firms. Additionally, there has been an increase in the number of firms willing to take one or more cases in-house on a pro bono basis, Corporation Counsel Michael A. Cardozo reported last week. Cardozo said he has courted firms to join the program, in part, because of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s emphasis on developing private-public partnerships as a way of helping the city through tough economic times. In addition, Cardozo said that the long lines of lawyers ringing the Association of the Bar of the City of New York last September in hopes of aiding victims of the World Trade Center attack made it plain that there is a reservoir of volunteer talent waiting to be tapped. At a breakfast meeting last Friday, Bloomberg thanked the firms for their assistance, and also honored the seven firms who took in lawyers from the Corporation Counsel’s Office during the eight months its headquarters at 100 Church Street were closed because of the terrorist attack. Bloomberg singled out Chadbourne & Parke for providing temporary offices for 100 Corporation Counsel lawyers for the entire time they were in exile, declaring the day “Chadbourne & Parke Day.” The influx of volunteers could not come at a more critical time for the Corporation Counsel’s Office, Cardozo said. With the budget crunch, the office, once 650 lawyers strong, will be down by 35 lawyers by fall as a result of attrition and a smaller-than-usual entering class. Normally, about 50 lawyers join the office in September, but this year only 25 will come on board, he said. “It’s fair to say,” Cardozo said, “that this talent from the law firms will enable us to stay even.” The volunteers, who will serve stints of four to six months, will be working in two of the office’s most hard pressed divisions: torts and Family Court. Those assigned to the Torts Division will defend the city against negligence claims, and those in the Family Court Division prosecute juvenile delinquency cases and also handle interstate child support matters. Jeffrey A. Mishkin, the partner in charge of the volunteer program at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, said that his firm had decided to detail an associate to the Corporation Counsel’s Office for the first time because “the city is clearly at the moment overwhelmed with cases.” In addition, he said, “it’s a wonderful opportunity for young lawyers to get intensive in-court experience early in the careers — something that is not easy to come by at a big firm.” Tammy Bieber, a seventh-year associate at Shearman & Sterling, who spent six months at the Corporation Counsel’s Office last year, confirmed that she had gotten trial experience in spades. At Shearman, she said, she had a lot of client responsibility and had done a “tremendous amount of brief writing,” but had rarely appeared in court, and had never presented an argument to a judge. Within three weeks of joining the office, she said, that problem was cured. Each week she would be assigned one, and sometimes two, cases ready for jury selection. While many of the cases settled, at least 10 involved courtroom work, starting with jury selection. One went to verdict, with a victory for the city. “It was a shock to the system,” Bieber said, “but it was a great learning experience. I gained confidence that I could do it without all the support [particularly clerical] I have at the firm.” In addition to Shearman & Sterling, Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler has sent associates to the Corporation Counsel’s Office for six month tours of duty for the past several years. At large firms, there are some junior partners who also are short of trial experience. Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, for instance, has offered to have six junior partners, along with a team of associates if necessary, each take a major city case that is heading for trial. The object, said Roy L. Reardon, the partner overseeing the program at Simpson, is “to give young partners an opportunity to try cases, which will actually go to verdict, in New York State Supreme Court.” The city cases will “get the very same treatment that we give to all our paying clients — at no cost,” Reardon said. “I think its good for us and it’s good for the city.” A total of 23 firms have volunteered to handle at least one city case in-house. In addition, some of the 10 firms that are sending lawyers to the Corporation Counsel’s Office will also take cases in-house. The firms that will take cases for the city in-house are: Bingham Dana; Carter, Ledyard & Milburn; Clifford Chance Rogers & Wells; Coudert Brothers; Cravath, Swaine & Moore; Davis & Gilbert; Davis Polk & Wardwell; Debevoise & Plimpton; Dorsey & Whitney; Fitzpatrick, Cella, Harper & Scinto; Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher; Greenberg Traurig; Hughes Hubbard & Reed; Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman; KMZ Rosenman; Kenyon & Kenyon; Mayer, Brown, Row & Maw; Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison; Proskauer Rose; Schulte Roth & Zabel; Simpson Thacher; Thacher Proffit & Wood and Willkie Farr & Gallagher.

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