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There were more reasons than ever for lawyers to turn their attention to pro bono work in 2017. In the wake of the 2016 U.S. election, political turmoil—in the form of travel bans and military bans and gerrymandering and so many other hot-button issues—drove lawyers to use their skills to fight for clients in need. Along the way, the Am Law 200 turned in more than 5 million hours of pro bono work.
As our Pro Bono Survey shows, in the form of a series of rankings that details the year’s efforts from every angle, the nation’s largest firms brought their resources to bear in 2017. And as the stories that comprise this package show, those resources made a difference. Lawyers helped deliver justice to individuals and groups that might not have found it otherwise, and in the process they came together as a profession to remind one another about the importance of pro bono work.
Legal matters ripped from the headlines contributed to lawyers at U.S. firms taking on more pro bono work in 2017 than they did the prior year, with Trump administration policies and actions inspiring attorneys and providing an outlet for the civic-minded.
Big Law attorneys found plenty of cases to sink their time into last year, whether they involved veterans’ rights, civil rights, gender equity in athletics or any number of other issues. Our slideshow recounts 16 of the most engaging engagements.
From Dulles to DFW and JFK to LAX, the legal community united in action after the first travel ban was announced, dealing with customs and border patrol agents, tracking flights to prepare for any incoming travelers who might be detained, drafting and filing habeas petitions and answering the legal questions of anyone in jeopardy.
There was a rush to deliver justice as a natural reaction to two Supreme Court cases that gave a thorough accounting of the unconstitutionality of severe punishments being handed down to teenagers whose brains are still developing.
Ben Seal is managing editor of The American Lawyer. He joined the magazine in February 2018, and previously spent five years working for The Legal Intelligencer, editing the paper's magazines and supplements and reporting on Pennsylvania's state courts, legislature and Attorney General's Office. Contact him at email@example.com or @BSealTAL.
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