For the client, a hard-working immigrant supporting her young son and student husband, it was an ordeal in which she nearly lost custody of her child.

For Sally Kim Christie and Virginia H. Johnson, third-year litigation associates at Weil, Gotshal & Manges who took on the woman’s case pro bono and won the day five months later, it was a powerful lesson in a lawyer’s obligation to sometimes perform above and beyond the neat strictures of the law.