Today, we are highlighting the pro bono work by the attorneys of Holwell Shuster & Goldberg (HSG). HSG was founded in 2012 as a boutique commercial litigation firm with a strong commitment to pro bono. The founding partners envisioned a firm that would give back to society through pro bono work. We spoke with HSG Partners Blair Kaminsky and Vince Levy about HSG’s commitment to pro bono and some of the pro bono work being done by attorneys at the firm.
What is the pro bono culture at HSG?
Blair: Pro bono is one of the founding principles of HSG. One of the reasons the founding partners started the firm was to serve the public good. There is a lot of encouragement from the very top for associates and young lawyers to find pro bono opportunities. HSG’s pro bono practice areas are largely driven by associate interests. If lawyers find the cases they are passionate about, the partners are very supportive of them taking those cases pro bono.
The firm has a monthly luncheon where we meet and talk about pro bono cases. The meeting is attended by partners, associates, and staff attorneys. It’s a very collaborative group. At the luncheon, everyone spends time talking about what they are doing and if there is room for others on the team.
Vince: The pro bono culture really comes from one of the founding partners, Richard J. Holwell, who is a former judge for the Southern District of New York. As a group, the partners care deeply about pro bono. The firm culture is very encouraging of pro bono work.
What are some examples of pro bono work being done at HSG?
Blair: We have had associates work on every type of pro bono case you can imagine. As just one example, we currently have an associate representing a prisoner who is vegan for religious reasons, but is concerned that he is not getting vegan meals.
As another example, we have developed a relationship with the Office of the Appellate Defender (OAD) in New York City. The OAD provides pro bono appellate representation to criminal defendants in New York courts, and they often partner with major firms all over New York City to provide pro bono representation. OAD work has given our associates some very interesting matters, including oral argument opportunities at the First Department and New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court.
Vince: We have five or six cases with OAD right now. One of them is in the New York Court of Appeals and one of our associates, Scott Danner, will be arguing that case very soon. The partners also encourage the associates to work closely with them on the pro bono cases. We are fortunate to have a former state appellate judge who was also a prosecutor, and a federal judge as partners, and this is incredibly helpful in the context of the OAD cases.
Blair: HSG is also a corporate partner with HerJustice – a nonprofit that provides free legal services to women living in poverty in New York City. HerJustice provides representation in family law, domestic violence, and immigration cases. In this capacity, we have one associate who is assisting with a litigated divorce case, and several others working on different matters. HSG recently did a joint clinic with attorneys at VISA, where each of the attorneys took on a HerJustice client for a pro bono divorce case. It was a great way to get to know some of the lawyers that work at VISA, including several who traveled to New York to participate in the clinic.
Vince: We have also partnered with the ACLU in trying to improve the employment situation for women at Frontier airlines. We filed charges with the EEOC on behalf of women pilots who face unfavorable policies related to pregnancy and postpartum accommodations, including breastfeeding. After we filed the charges against Frontier Airlines, we have seen some positive developments in the industry although much work remains to be done.
Thanks for joining us for Part 1 of our Pro Bono Spotlight with Vince Levy and Blair Kaminsky of Holwell Shuster & Goldberg. Be sure to check back for Part 2 on Thursday to find out more about the great pro bono work being done by attorneys at HSG.