After wrapping up a big case at age 65, W. George Grandison wanted to shift gears toward some significant pro bono work. Five years later, Grandison, a Washington partner at Steptoe & Johnson LLP specializing in international trade, heads a pro bono program at the firm called Action for Children of Trafficking.
The project helps victims of human trafficking, violent crime, abuse or neglect or political persecution obtain legal status to remain in the United States.
Most times, Grandison takes on individual cases, usually with the help of another partner or associate at the firm. The legal work involves interacting with law enforcement, producing documents and testimony for the case, and interviewing the clients.
“One of the greatest challenges is just working with the clients as people,” he said. “We’re talking about women and children who oftentimes have been traumatized by brutal treatment, and that’s challenging in and of itself. And then there are a variety of legal issues that come up.”
The cases either involve obtaining asylum for those facing political persecution or appealing for visas available to victims of trafficking, violent crime or abuse and neglect. So far, more than 120 lawyers at the firm have participated since the program’s inception.
“This is a situation where you make a tangible difference in someone’s life,” Grandison said. “Because they’re spread out over time, taking one to three years, they’re the kinds of cases you can manage while still doing a lot of commercial, billable work, which is what makes a law firm successful and allows it to have a pro bono program.”
Grandison also assists the Women’s Refugee Commission, which advocates for refugees and displaced women, children and young people who are seeking asylum. Working primarily with the organization’s Washington office, Grandison has helped lobby and draft proposed amendments to federal legislation for immigrant women and children.