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Global Pro Bono Awards Highlight Increasing Scope of Ropes & Gray’s Most Meaningful Work

Tags: Pro Bono

Ropes & Gray held a two-day global celebration for the firm’s 13th annual Pro Bono Awards, with presentations in Hong Kong, London and multiple U.S. offices. The awards honor individual attorneys and teams that have excelled in high impact public service projects.

Each day, Ropes & Gray attorneys use their legal knowledge and skills to support underserved populations, tackle social justice issues and make meaningful contributions to society. In 2015, more than three quarters of the firm’s attorneys worldwide contributed to pro bono matters, and nearly 1,400 professionals at the firm devoted 114,000 hours to pro bono efforts.

The firm’s Deborah Levi Award, named in memory of a former litigation associate and champion of Ropes & Gray’s pro bono program, was presented to a team of corporate attorneys who worked to develop and implement a debt defense clinic at Rosie’s Place, a Boston shelter that provides support, housing and education services to 12,000 women each year. The clinic, held each Thursday morning at Rosie’s Place by a team of Ropes & Gray attorneys, paralegals and staff members, helps shelter guests cope with the legal, practical and emotional burdens caused by debt. In the year that the clinic has been operating, the firm has seen approximately 150 clients, many more than once. The team, which has involved more than 40 attorneys and four paralegals from the Boston office, is led by private investment funds partner Ann Milner (Boston).

A second Ropes & Gray team was honored for its involvement in securing the release of George Perrot, who had spent 30 years in prison for a crime that the team proved he did not commit. The team, led by government enforcement partner Kirsten Mayer (Boston), obtained a landmark Massachusetts state court ruling overturning Mr. Perrot’s conviction, marking the first time a conviction was overturned because of a flawed FBI microscopic hair analysis. Noting that there was evidence of actual innocence and prosecutorial misconduct from the start, the team employed hard work and tenacity over the course of five years to see the case through to its resolution. After being in prison since the age of 17, Mr. Perrot was released on his own recognizance. The court’s ruling changed Mr. Perrot’s life, and has potential significance for many others wrongly convicted based on flawed FBI hair analysis.

The growth of the pro bono program in London and Asia highlights the connectedness of the firm’s attorneys and has led to sharply increased participation in those offices, with the number of attorneys performing at least 20 hours of pro bono service tripling from just one year ago. London-based lawyers performed 1,200 hours of service in 2015, including working with The Nature Conservancy to swap sovereign debt to establish a protected marine life zone in the Seychelles; helping a local charity that runs South American trekking trips to grow the local economies there; and assisting the UK’s Centre for Criminal Appeals (CCA) in assessing cases in which a conviction may be suitable for review by the Criminal Cases Review Commission. In Asia, the firm is working with Liberty Asia in Hong Kong to explore the use of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act as a vehicle for disrupting human trafficking.

Starting in the fall of 2016, the firm will partner with Lawyers Without Borders to send its attorneys to participate in week-long projects in Kenya. Teams of partners and associates will help train judges, magistrates and law enforcement officials and give them the legal tools they need to combat human and wildlife trafficking and to ensure the integrity of the judicial system. 

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