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On the morning of Sept. 20, 2001 — when officials were still counting the dead and missing from terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and threats of deadly anthrax virus filled the daily press — five of Manhattan’s biggest law firms sat down together for what participants knew was a moment of bearing witness to history. “We’re not doctors, and we’re not construction workers,” said Edwin S. Maynard, a corporate partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Garrison & Wharton, shortly after the meeting, held in a conference room at his firm. “But there are things that lawyers can do in this awful time.” Among them: Recognize that litigation is not the sole form of pro bono work, and rise to the emergency call of volunteerism — never mind the usual excuses of limited time and lack of expertise in specialized practice areas. After all, the lives and fortunes of thousands of New Yorkers had been destroyed in a few horrific minutes, the city and the world had forever changed and the family of New York was injured and needed the help of its attorneys. On the agenda that morning was the question of how lawyers from blue chip firms might work in concert to help repair the ruined fabric of lower Manhattan: its mom-and-pop enterprises, and the people who had struggled to establish them — people who would not likely be clients of blue chip firms under other circumstance. Hours later, Laurence Pettit, a partner at White & Case, described the session as “very cooperative, very constructive” and “unprecedented.” In a recent interview, New York Court of Appeals Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye pronounced this the beginning of a “new golden age of pro bono.” Besides Paul Weiss and White & Case, the five firms included Davis, Polk & Wardell; Stroock & Stroock & Lavan; and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. The firms were summoned to emergency council by Maria L. Imperial, executive director of the City Bar Fund, the pro bono arm of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. Only weeks before Sept. 11, Imperial had launched a new program in her office — the Small Business Legal Initiative. Its purpose would be to broker transactional pro bono opportunities, in hopes of making volunteer lawyering as attractive and obvious to corporate attorneys as it had long been for litigators. In fact, Imperial had just secured funding to hire Akira Arroyo, 29, as coordinator of the new initiative. Half Arroyo’s salary was pledged by the National Association for Public Interest Law (recently renamed Equal Justice Works), with the balance split between two city firms: Cravath, Swaine & Moore and Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton. Ironically, Arroyo began her fellowship at the city Bar two days after the World Trade Center fell instead of the day before. Imperial, her boss, was stranded in Albany with colleagues who had gathered for a Sept. 11 conference to establish “Access to Justice,” a pet project of Kaye and Juanita Bing Newton, deputy chief administrative judge for justice initiatives. Two days after Arroyo had begun work, there was a bomb scare at the city Bar. Within a month of the emergency meeting called by Imperial, the original five firms had grown to 80. In addition, solo and small firm lawyers as well as in-house counsel — hundreds of whom had done little or no pro bono work in the past — were now up to their elbows in volunteer transactional work. In late September, there was another meeting of competitors in the ordinary course of business. This time, Chadbourne & Parke hosted more than 100 big firm pro bono officers, as well as representatives of most of New York’s public law agencies. That meeting established a united plan in aid of Imperial’s World Trade Center Disaster Legal Mobilization Project. Initiatives introduced included the City Bar’s Individual and Family Facilitator Project, the Crime Victim Compensation Notary Project, the Death Certificate Assistance Project and the Adopt-a-Firehouse Program — all of which remain active with the help of private firm pro bono lawyers. Also in late September came the first of the city Bar’s several efforts to provide volunteer attorneys in all practice areas with quick brush-ups on legal specialties they may last have known in law school. For example, expedited death certificates for those presumed dead in the wreckage of the World Trade Center: The critical documents would qualify thousands of victims’ families to collect monies from insurance policies and government relief funds. On Sept. 25, some 700 lawyers showed up at city Bar headquarters for a workshop on expedited death certificates, their line snaking out the door to West 44th Street all the way to Sixth Avenue. With a training room capacity of only 400, the others were turned away. (The city Bar offered two repeat workshops in the first week of October.) “It takes your breath away,” said Evan A. Davis at the time. Davis, immediate past president of the City Bar and a partner at Cleary Gottlieb, saw his own downtown firm move to temporary quarters until ancillary damage at its Liberty Plaza building could be repaired. NEW MODEL During the course of these unprecedented meetings and workshops, hundreds of lawyer-to-lawyer associations developed, as did a new pro bono model, variously called the “general counsel form,” the “holistic approach” or “one-stop shopping” for legal services. By whatever name, the new development seems to have benefited all concerned: the pro bono attorneys, in sharing expertise; public law agencies such as Legal Aid that had to reach out more than ever for private bar assistance; and the clients, who would have known even more chaos if they had had to engage separate lawyers for each area of their legal problems — insurance, trusts and estates, immigration, leases, tax, small business loans and disaster relief. Today, nearly a year after the terrorist attacks, Kaye has issued a series of challenges to private firm lawyers, most notably with her March 5 Marden Lecture before the city Bar, and at the first of four pro bono convocations hosted by the New York State Unified Court System (See sidebar: “ Four Convocations Aim to Develop Statewide System“). “The need for pro bono is there, far more than ever,” Kaye said in an interview. “We cannot let this drop. I will not let this drop.” UNPOPULAR CAUSE Kaye had been thinking a great deal about pro bono in the late summer of last year. Her personal compass point took her back 40 years when she was a newly minted attorney. In the Warren Court decade of the 1960s, pro bono litigators criss-crossed the country righting social wrongs ignored by generations of politicians. It was that spirit of public responsibility among attorneys that Kaye determined to see ascend once more. But her wishes may not come about free of reservations from certain quarters of the bar. Nor is it guaranteed that all lawyers will refrain from denouncing a litigation-driven pro bono era of the past. Some even look with a jaundiced eye on born-again transactional pro bono. Journalist and non-practicing attorney Heather MacDonald offered just such misgivings in an article entitled “What Good is Pro Bono?” published in the Spring 2000 edition of City Journal, a magazine funded by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, an influential right-wing think tank. “Pro bono publico law went through a radical transformation in the 1960s,” MacDonald wrote. “Ever since, it has been the vehicle through which elite corporate lawyers could participate in the entitlements revolution, in the litigation revolution that turned lawyers and judges into unelected legislators, and in the cultural revolution that turned America into a nation of victims.” In support of her viewpoint, MacDonald quoted Francis Menton Jr., a litigation partner at Willkie Farr & Gallagher and a member of the conservative Federalist Society: “Millionaire attorneys have decided how society should work, and they use the courts to make the middle class pay for their schemes.” Menton was also quoted on his assessment of the Legal Aid Society as an “agent of millionaire attorneys for forcing their charitable preferences on middle class taxpayers.” In an interview with the New York Law Journal, Menton added: “The quotes apply to massive policy-oriented lawsuits that seek to compel the government to change its ways, as distinct from retail-level pro bono, in which individual service is given by a lawyer to a low-income individual for any number of reasons.” Although he is not part of Willkie Farr’s pro bono committee, Menton said, “I have enunciated the position that just because somebody puts the label pro bono on it, that doesn’t mean we should suspend all critical judgment.” In his associate years, Menton said, he represented numerous individuals on a pro bono basis in both civil and criminal matters. He also said that he supports virtually all Willkie Farr’s current pro bono projects, which he said represents about 3 percent of the firm’s annual billable hours. In her magazine article, McDonald challenged the most basic proposition of pro bono litigation: “First, jettison the biggest misconception … that is is done for free,” she wrote. “In fact, firms purporting to be fulfilling their public service obligations sometimes rake in thousands, even millions of dollars in fees, usually from the government.” Perhaps the worst to be said of post-Sept. 11 pro bono efforts of the private bar is that free transactional help may not ultimately save the day for some micro-entrepreneurs. “We’re finding that in certain cases, what’s really needed is what we can’t provide,” said Maynard. “That would be straight-out cash money.” Kaye may yet have critics in her aim to capitalize on an historic outpouring of pro bono activity, but at the moment she enjoys the company of many allies. At the City Bar Fund, for instance, Imperial said the database of lawyers available for on-call assignments to pro bono cases has increased by more than 3,000 names. “We’re doing a number of things to keep the momentum going,” said Imperial. Many of the lawyers doing pro bono for the first time are from small firms, or house counsel with corporations, she said. “Now they’re continuing, not just on 9/11 cases but now with new ones.” Imperial’s formal efforts toward maintaining momentum include: � The Pro Bono Society of the city Bar has been created to recognize private lawyers who have made significant contributions. These lawyers will receive certificates of appreciation, and will be listed in the city Bar’s yearbook. � Plans are under way for a special reception this fall in honor of all volunteer attorneys. � Volunteer lawyers on the City Bar Fund’s expanded database have begun receiving periodic e-mail updates of pro bono opportunities involving short and long-term commitments. � Lawyers may also activate a Web site — www.probono.net — for City Bar Fund information. The site provides legal updates and a bulletin board where attorneys may consult one another on specialty practice and referrals. “I don’t know what we would have done without the technology of the Web site,” said Imperial, who now sits on the board of directors of Pro Bono Net, the Web site’s non-profit corporate entity. (Also serving on the board is William L. Pollak, president and chief executive officer of American Lawyer Media Inc., parent company of the New York Law Journal and law.com.) The Web company was the brainchild of Michael Hertz, who took a leave of absence from a partnership at Latham & Watkins in 1998 to set up shop. With funding from the Soros Foundation, Hertz had the prescient idea of using the Internet as a broker for private attorneys and public law agencies. The site was launched in 1999. “We’d been working intensely for a couple of years when 9/11 hit,” said Hertz, “and we had the template to simply add another practice area … We called it simply 9/11. “It quickly became our largest practice area,” said Hertz, who added that the site has 2,800 registered users. In addition to connecting private attorneys with public law organizations, the Web site has online law libraries. Lawyers may download briefs, training manuals and model pleadings. The Web site is staffed by seven full-time employees, including Hertz as president of Pro Bono Net, and operates in 29 states besides New York. This article is the first of four in a series on post-Sept.11 pro bono in New York. The remaining articles in the series will appear here in the next two weeks.

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