Ropes & Gray Private Equity Partner Christian Westra Wins Prestigious Adams Pro Bono Publico Award From Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
Christian Westra, a Ropes & Gray private equity partner, has been awarded the prestigious Adams Pro Bono Publico Award by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. The award honors those in the legal profession who have demonstrated outstanding and exceptional commitment to providing unpaid legal services to those in need.
In recognition of his work on behalf of the Boston-based COVID Relief Coalition, Christian received the Adams Pro Bono Publico Award for his efforts in helping thousands of nonprofits and small businesses in the greater Boston area obtain legal and financial support to better navigate the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Coalition is a private and public sector partnership of law firms, nonprofits and government agencies formed to help vulnerable businesses and mission-driven organizations access emergency loans and other sources of economic relief. The Coalition, co-led by the firm’s longstanding pro bono partners Lawyers for Civil Rights and Lawyers Clearinghouse, has taken on more than 235 pro bono representations. Approximately 65% of the pro bono representations Ropes & Gray has taken through the Coalition have been for organizations led by women or people of color.
Christian was instrumental in forming and launching the Coalition in the early days of the pandemic, when consumer spending came to a standstill. Resourceful and proactive, he acted quickly to identify partners from throughout the Greater Boston community. One of the early events Christian led, a webinar with the United Way, was attended by more than 250 participants from the region’s nonprofit community.
Always accessible despite his many other duties, Christian helped focus the Coalition’s work, identifying key issues affecting nonprofits and small businesses and the emergency relief resources that could help them to mitigate their hardships. In particular, Christian guided the Coalition’s pro bono clients through the application process of the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, offering assistance on key considerations such as eligibility and debt forgiveness.
This is the third time in recent years that a Ropes & Gray attorney has been honored by the SJC with this award. In 2016, private investment funds partner Ann Milner won the Adams Award for her work developing and implementing a pioneering debt defense clinic for clients of Rosie’s Place, the first women’s shelter in the United States. And in 2013, health care partner Michele Garvin was awarded the Adams Award for her work establishing Ropes & Gray’s medical-legal partnership with Dot House Health, a community health center in Dorchester.
For Christian as well as Ropes & Gray, it has been especially rewarding to watch the Coalition serve as a model for similar relief organizations in other parts of the country, underscoring the influence and importance of pro bono contributions during a time of exceptional challenges for so many.