March 22, 2010


Record Level of Pro Bono Service by State Bar Members Helps to Narrow Justice Gap for Needy New Yorkers, Nonprofit Organizations and Others During Tough Economic Times 

ALBANY-Members of the New York State Bar Association last year collectively provided hundreds of thousands of hours of pro bono services to needy New Yorkers, nonprofit groups, and other public service organizations.  In particular, members of the State Bar's Empire State Counsel alone provided almost 250,000 hours of free legal services in a wide range of cases including child custody, immigration matters, bankruptcy, mortgage foreclosures and providing assistance and counsel to victims of mass disasters and their families. 

The 1,438 attorneys who collectively provided 247,550 hours, and who each provided at least 50 individual hours of pro bono legal work, were honored with the State Bar designation "Empire State Counsel" - a program created by the State Bar to recognize these extraordinary contributions.  This year's total was more than double the pro bono hours provided in 2008.  Participants ranged from large lawyers law firms to solo practitioners around the State whose collective efforts provided assistance to needy New Yorkers who would have been unable to afford legal counsel. 

"As the need for legal services dramatically increased and funding diminished within the last year, our members once again answered the call to do the public good by using their talents and time to help families keep their homes, represent domestic violence victims in divorce proceedings, and assist parents in getting health care for their children," said State Bar President Michael E. Getnick (Getnick Livingston Atkinson & Priore, LLP of Utica and of counsel to Getnick & Getnick of New York City). "I commend this year's Empire State Counsel for their outstanding efforts to close the ever expanding justice gap, and I am very pleased that more attorneys are renewing their commitment to pro bono."

Getnick also stressed, "Each year, thousands of other New York State Bar Association members - who do not participate in our Empire State Counsel program - provide hundreds of thousands of hours of pro bono services.  They, too, should be congratulated on their significant efforts and contributions to the public good."

Among the large firms whose attorneys together provided more than 10,000 hours of pro bono services were: Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP - 32,665 hours; DLA Piper LLP (US) -10,560 hours; Jones Day - 10,096 hours; Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP - 13,167 hours; Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP - 13,068 hours; Proskauer Rose LLP - 16,342 hours; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP -13,442 hours; and Sullivan & Cromwell LLP - 20,245 hours.

Many of this year's top individual pro bono service providers worked at large law firms including Joshua Thomas (Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP), 1,471 hours;  Diana Goff (Shearman & Sterling LLP), 1,269 hours; Laurie L. Levin (Goodwin Procter LLP), 1,219 hours; Elyse Jones Cowgill (Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP), 1,074 hours; and Rene A. Kathawala (Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP), 1,000 hours. 

Getnick noted that the Association also owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to solo practitioner members for all of their contributions during the economic downturn of 2009.  They performed thousands of hours of pro bono service without the resources and support available at large firms.  "Their individual efforts," Getnick said, "though perhaps smaller in total hours, were no less significant than those at large firms in helping keep families together in their homes and safe from abuse.
There are approximately 2.1 million people in New York who cannot afford an attorney when faced with eviction, foreclosure, debt collection, and the loss of other basic human needs. Some of those who are turned away receive legal assistance through lawyers who volunteer with legal services programs and/or bar association pro bono panels.  Getnick added, "The New York State Bar Association sincerely appreciates our members who have committed to volunteering with these programs. Collectively, these member volunteers donated approximately 3,752 hours of pro bono during 2009."

Lawyers at the following firms participated in the Empire State Counsel program in 2009:

Arent Fox LLP
Arnold & Porter LLP
Baker & McKenzie LLP
Brown Rudnick LLP
Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft LLP
Cohen & Gresser LLP
Covington & Burling LLP
Crowell & Moring LLP
Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP
Davis Wright  Tremaine LLP
Debevoise & Plimpton LLP
Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP
DLA Piper LLP (US)
Dorsey & Whitney LLP
Duane Morris LLP
Fitzsimmons & Mack PC
Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson LLP
Gibbons P.C.
Goodwin Procter LLP
Gorlick, Kravitz & Listhaus P.C.
Hancock & Estabrook LLP
Handelman, Witkowicz & Levitsky
Harris Beach PLLC
Hiscock & Barclay LLP
Hogan & Hartson LLP
Hunton & Williams LLP
Jones Day
Katten Muchen Rosenman LLP
Kaye Scholer LLP
Kilpatrick Stockton LLP
Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP
Lankler Siffert & Wohl LLP
Latham & Watkins LLP
Lenehan & Dempsey P.C.
Levene Gouldin & Thompson, LLP
Lissner & Lissner LLP
Looper Reed & McGraw P.C.
Mayer Brown LLP
McCarter & English, LLP
McDermott Will & Emery LLP
Meyer Suozzi English & Klein, P.C.
Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP
Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP
Morrison & Foerster LLP
Nixon Peabody LLP
O'Melveny & Myers LLP
Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP
Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP
Pattison Sampson Ginsberg & Griffin P.C.
Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison LLP
Phillips Nizer LLP
Proskauer Rose LLP
Pryor Cashman LLP
Reed Smith LLP
Ropes & Gray LLP
Satterlee Stephens Burke & Burke LLP
Sedgwick Detart Moran & Arnold LLP
Seyfarth Shaw LLP
Shearman & Sterling LLP
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP
Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP
Steptoe & Johnson LLP
Sullivan & Cromwell LLP
Sullivan Keenan Oliver & Violando LLP
Tabner, Ryan & Keniry LLP
Toombs & Meier PLLC
Troutman Sanders LLP
Ward & Murphy LLP
Weinberg & Gerontianos, P.C.
White & Case LLP

Created by Past President Mark H. Alcott (Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison LLP) in June 2006, the Empire State Counsel program recognizes lawyers who donate 50 hours or more of pro bono services in a calendar year to the poor and to not-for-profit, governmental or public services organizations whose services are designed primarily to address the legal and other basic needs of persons of limited financial means.

In a related ongoing effort to improve access to the justice system for all, the State Bar will collaborate on a joint venture with the Office of Court Administration (OCA) known as the Attorney Emeritus Program. The program permits retired attorneys age 55 and over to handle pro bono cases without having to pay the biennial $350 registration fee or to meet mandatory continuing legal education requirements. Lawyers must be in good standing, have practiced law for at least 10 years and commit to volunteering for a minimum of 60 hours during a two-year attorney registration period. 

"The Attorney Emeritus Program is an excellent incentive for retired attorneys to use their extraordinary wealth of knowledge and expertise to help meet the public's growing need for legal services," said Getnick. "We are thrilled to partner with the OCA on this groundbreaking venture as we strive to make justice for all a reality for New Yorkers and to further the State Bar's proud tradition of promoting pro bono service. I want to thank Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman for his outstanding efforts in creating such a worthwhile initiative that is sure to be of great benefit to those in need."


Founded in 1876, the 77,000-member New York State Bar Association is the official statewide organization of lawyers in New York and the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. The State Bar's programs and activities have continuously served the public and improved the justice system for more than 130 years.