This month marks six months since President Biden took office. One might wonder if our new President’s very different policies and approach from his predecessor would call for a fundamental shift in the focus of U.S. pro bono work. Indeed, some of the highest-impact and highest-profile pro bono efforts over the past four years involved assisting those challenging Trump Administration policies. For example, law firms doing pro bono work were at the forefront of challenges to the Trump Administration’s efforts to rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, to add a citizenship question to the decennial census, and to conduct wide-scale civil immigration arrests in state courthouses. Our firm, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, joined the fray on many occasions, submitting friend-of-the-court briefs opposing the Trump Administration’s travel ban and taking on immigration cases at the border when children were being separated from their parents during the crackdown on illegal entry into this country. But despite the markedly different policies of the Biden Administration, we expect that many pro bono efforts will continue apace.
Changing lives, out of the limelight
While pro bono work against the federal government may enjoy the spotlight from time to time, it is hardly the lion’s share of pro bono efforts at U.S. firms. Much pro bono litigation is against state, municipal, or private parties. To take just a few examples, Freshfields, along with other law firms, represents victims of domestic violence in partnership with DVLeap, challenges state convictions with the Office of the Appellate Defender, and works with the ACLU to combat discriminatory policing. Indeed, one of Freshfields’ largest pro bono matters last year, a civil-rights action against an NYPD police officer, had no connection to the federal government.