Every year at this time, The National Law Journal bestows its Pro Bono Awards on lawyers doing exemplary work upholding the principle that justice shouldn’t be contingent on one’s ability to pay. We looked for firms that contributed substantial time and money to the cause and gave bonus points if the lawyers risked opprobrium by standing up for unpopular people and causes. After sifting through dozens of top-notch entries, here are the firms honored this year.

Better to light a candle …
Firms are using pro bono to train young attorneys, and aren’t afraid to take on tough cases.

It took a ‘village’ to block bottling project

A Manatt team worked with scientists, anglers and community organizers to beat Nestlé.

A rookie sets a precedent and maybe saves a life

How a Jenner & Block associate made her appellate debut at the highest court.

Asylum cases keep her on the cutting edge

Reed Smith’s Jayne Fleming is building a human-rights infrastructure.

Firm rode to rescue of senior citizens, disabled

Munger Tolles took on Social Security for cutting off people for crimes they didn’t commit.