Pro Bono Rank Firm
(Am Law 200 Rank)
Am Law
Pro Bono Score
Average Pro Bono
Hours Per Lawyer
% of Lawyers
With More Than 20 Hours
Steptoe & Johnson (75)


A few years ago attorneys at Steptoe & Johnson saw a need: Other firms and governmental organizations were helping adult victims of human trafficking, but no immediate assistance was available to children and young adults who had been trafficked into the United States.

The Am Law Pro Bono 100Working with the Women’s Refugee Commission in Washington, D.C., which advocates to improve the lives of refugee women and children, in 2007 Steptoe began what’s now its signature pro bono project: the Action for Children of Trafficking program. Steptoe lawyers advise victims of international child trafficking, helping them to gain refuge in the U.S. through a U-Visa, which gives temporary legal status for up to four years to victims of violent crimes. The firm has handled 50 to 60 cases—most referred to Steptoe after the children are freed from their traffickers by law enforcement.

Many of the trafficked children were smuggled or brought into the U.S. under false pretenses for sexual trade, exploitation, or servitude. They come from 18 countries in South America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Some were also victims of violent crimes, or were abandoned or neglected, and could not be sent home because of an unsafe environment. The program originally focused on children under 18, but has been expanded to offer services to young adults who were trafficked as children and came forward later.

Steptoe has also started a clinic in Phoenix, in collaboration with the nonprofit Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, for children who have crossed the border, been detained, and then released to local family members. The clinic offers them legal advice and helps them evaluate their cases for legal residence in the U.S.

Because of its work with the Women’s Refugee Commission, as well as other immigration groups, the firm became involved in lobbying and drafting amendments for the federal Trafficking Victims Reauthorization Act, which became law last December, says partner George Grandison. The amendment gives immediate access to a U-Visa to any child who can show reasonable evidence of having been trafficked. It also allows children to help with prosecution of traffickers, which had not previously been allowed without the U.S. Department of Justice’s approval.

“We are striving to find a better way to provide legal representation for immigrant children,” says Grandison.

—Kristen Putch | July 1, 2009

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