Milbank LLP’s annual Pro Bono Awards, a highlight for the firm each summer, bring together lawyers, staff and summer associates to celebrate individuals and teams who have made extraordinary pro bono contributions. The firm recently hosted awards in its New York and Los Angeles offices, with another event in Washington, DC taking place later this year.
At the New York office’s Hudson Yards headquarters, the Awards – now in their 27th year – recognized lawyers for their work on a variety of projects, including a family reunion between parents from Honduras and their 4-year-old son in New York just in time for his critical heart surgery, a landmark civil rights ruling against the NYPD over access to unredacted body-worn camera footage, and a successful merger of two non-profit parks organizations requiring difficult negotiations.
The program also recognized an Honor Roll of lawyers who contributed 100 or more hours of pro bono over the award year. Over the last year, the Honor Roll list grew from 76 to 120 enrollees – an increase of more than 50 percent. Almost a quarter of Milbank’s US attorneys contributed 100 or more hours to pro bono, and the firm ranked 7th for “Breadth of Commitment” on The American Lawyer’s annual Pro Bono Scorecard.
In his introductory remarks at the New York event, Chairman Scott A. Edelman remarked on the breadth and depth of Milbank’s commitment. “The firm sets an unusually high bar for the minimum number of pro bono hours we expect our US attorneys to perform,” he commented, noting that the firm’s attorneys do “an excellent job” meeting this 25-hour requirement. He also thanked the firm’s US summer associates, who all participated in pro bono work during the season, collectively contributing over 2,000 hours. “I hope that you’ve found these hours informative, valuable and inspiring – and that they’re just the beginning of your career-long dedication to assisting those in need of legal services,” he added.
Pro Bono Counsel Anthony Perez Cassino presented each of the New York honorees with a trophy and described their work over the past year. They include:
Hannah Cho (New York, Litigation): Helped to organize a new Criminal Justice Act (CJA) program at Milbank for criminal defendants, and worked on Milbank’s first criminal trial for CJA
Will Farmer (Washington, DC, Litigation): Contributed more than 400 of pro bono work, advocating for immigrants and immigrant rights
Lesley Janzen (NY, Capital Markets): Helped to reunite parents from Honduras with their 4-year-old son, who had been separated from them by US authorities, just in time for the boy’s open heart surgery in NYC
Shirley Liang (Washington, DC, Litigation): Working on behalf of a client of the Tahirih Justice Center, which honored her as “Pro Bono Attorney of the Year,” advocated for a woman who sought asylum for herself and her children in the US after fleeing horrific domestic violence from her husband in Egypt
Kieran Murphy (New York, Real Estate): Won a rare grant of asylum for an abused Salvadoran woman and her son in a challenging environment for immigration cases
Alexandra Paslawsky (New York, Litigation): Worked on four major pro bono cases, amounting to nearly 500 hours, including a criminal appeal and civil rights matters
Christopher Spelman (New York, Litigation): Won appeal for client in case involving controversial NYC “gravity knife” law, and worked with New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) to oppose unconstitutional restrictions on door-to-door canvassing
Julia Wu (Los Angeles, Litigation): Dedicated over 330 hours to five separate pro bono matters, all involving helping people who have been abused or are seeking to escape violence and seeking a better life in the US
Devan Zorn (New York, Capital Markets): Dedicated nearly 200 hours to helping the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) research and analyze civil liberties issues, including policies related to health care access and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s subpoena authority
Blackwood Limited Depo Team (New York, Litigation)—Sean Murphy, Jacob Jou, Jonathan Lamberti: This team successfully represented a hotel worker suing her employer for wrongful termination, winning a settlement far exceeding the original settlement offer.
Couliby Criminal Appeal Team (New York, Litigation)—Brent Culpepper, Anna Dimon: These associates secured a rare win for a client in a criminal appeal, successfully arguing that the client was denied effective assistance of counsel.
Cutz Asylum Team—Jacqueline Stephanie Durand (New York, Project, Energy & Infrastructure Finance), Lindsey Kell (New York, Leveraged Finance), Janelle Vacchiano (New York, Project, Energy & Infrastructure Finance): In a difficult climate for women seeking asylum in the United States, this team of transactional lawyers represented a woman fleeing domestic violence in her home country in a challenging five-hour immigration court hearing.
NYPD FOIA Team (New York, Litigation)—Jed Schwartz, Marion Burke, Marguerite O’Brien, Jasper Perkins, Ben Reed: Serving as pro bono counsel for non-profit civil rights group New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI), this team helped secure a landmark ruling against the New York Police Department (NYPD) over access to the unredacted body-worn camera (BWC) footage from the fatal shooting of a college student experiencing a mental health crisis.
Park Merger Team (New York, Corporate)—Scott Golenbock, Daniel P. Tyrrell: This team drew on their substantial experience as corporate lawyers to assist with the merger of two not-for-profit parks organizations with a similar mission but very different philosophies.
Public Counsel SIJS Amicus Team—Tom Kreller (Los Angeles, Financial Restructuring), Linda Dakin-Grimm (Los Angeles, Litigation), Anya Andreeva (New York, Project, Energy & Infrastructure Finance), Matthew DeFrancesco (New York, Litigation), Andrew Lichtenberg (New York, Litigation), Sohee Rho (New York, Litigation), Ashley Satterlee (New York, Litigation), Mandy Stupart (New York, Alternative Investments): This bi-coastal team worked together on an amicus brief on behalf of 12 non-profit programs in support of a class action brought to stop the federal government (USCIS) from denying Special Immigrant Juvenile Status to thousands of young people in California between the ages of 18 and 20. In October 2018, the Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and proposed class, granting the preliminary injunction on a California-wide basis—covering young immigrants throughout the state who were at risk of being denied SIJS and potentially removed from the US.