Lawyers from Latham & Watkins; Kirkland & Ellis; and Cravath, Swaine & Moore raked in big money from pro bono work in 2021. This may sound contradictory, but, as the Pro Bono Institute explains, legal work that is undertaken with no expectation of reimbursement falls under the “pro bono” category, whether lawyers are awarded fees for their services or not. Now, instead of these firms holding onto the money that they were awarded for winning pro bono cases, they are on a mission to donate the money to “carefully selected causes,” according to Reuters.
Latham plans to donate $3.9 million, while Kirkland and Cravath plan to donate $12.5 million and $6 million, respectively.
Latham’s $3.9 million came in one lump sum from a pro bono fee award for work that the firm’s lawyers made in challenging the election of board members for a school district in the Hudson Valley of New York. The board members had cut funding to public schools with student populations comprised mostly of Black and Latino students, while simultaneously increasing funding to predominantly white schools.
The almost $4 million in award money came from the school district’s account, and now Latham wants to give it back to the disenfranchised Black and Latino students directly. Latham partner Andrew Clubok wants to “find a way to actually help the kids right now,” according to Reuters. Clubok is working with a local community organization to help effectively distribute the funds and is willing to take as much time as he needs to ensure that the money is spent right.
After leading the litigation for and winning a civil rights case that challenged the underfunding of historically Black state universities in Maryland, Kirkland & Ellis partner Michael Jones is working to ensure that the $12.5 million award fee is put to good use. $5 million will be used to fund an endowment to provide paid internships for students at public interest and civil rights organizations. Another $3 million will go to advancing racial justice initiatives for students at historically Black colleges.
Cravath partner Faiza Saeed said that the firm will give its $6 million award to The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and the Equal Justice Initiative. Saeed believes that these organizations reflect the nature of an employment discrimination case that Cravath won for its Black and female plaintiffs.