Welcome back to Part 2 of our Pro bono Spotlight with Vince Levy and Blair Kaminsky of Holwell Shuster & Goldberg LLP.
What are some examples of pro bono work being done at HSG? (continued)
Vince: HSG was also involved in the travel-ban litigation. We took a case on behalf of a client in an individual capacity who was an asylee from Syria. The client came to the U.S. and was forced to leave his wife and young child behind in Syria. He had filed a derivative asylum petition for his wife and child to be able to come to the U.S., and while this was pending, the travel ban was signed. We took over the case, and filed an action seeking injunctive relief after the first travel ban. By the time the case was heard, the revised ban had been signed. HSG attorneys obtained the first injunction against the revised travel ban, and the government agreed to keep the injunction in place as to our client until the asylum application was granted. The family was reunited about a year ago and they are all now together in Wisconsin. It’s not often that you get to help a client with something that is truly life or death. It was a really gratifying case.
Blair: As an observer at the firm, it was amazing to watch the enthusiasm and passion of the associates.
Vince: Also, in this U.S. Supreme Court term, HSG has filed seven or eight amicus briefs on a pro bono basis. We have filed amicus briefs in each of the two partisan gerrymandering cases, one on behalf of the Brennan Center and one on behalf of a group of bipartisan legislators. We also filed an amicus brief related to a death penalty case. We do quite a bit of amicus work. Some of that is driven by the partners, but a lot of that is driven by the associates at the firm.
Do most attorneys at the firm work on pro bono matters?
Vince: All associates at the firm are doing some type of pro bono work, it just varies by person and by year. But, last month, every single associate billed some pro bono time.
What is your most memorable pro bono experience?
Vince: Definitely the travel ban case, because it was so personal. The family came to New York after the case was over and met with us at the firm – it was quite something. People were in tears. It’s not every day where you feel like you have made such a change to someone’s life.
Blair: In addition to incredibly rewarding work on behalf of a survivor of sexual assault, I worked with a team seeking access to public school records for special education students. Two associates had oral arguments in that case, and it was gratifying to see them succeed.
Vince: It’s very rewarding to see the professional development and the sense of pride. We are a very tightknit group and all the lawyers feel professionally invested in these cases. It’s nice that folks can work on things that are meaningful at a macro level and potentially have a large impact in the U.S., but also do things that are meaningful to them, such as making sure a prisoner has food. The firm encourages associates to take on cases that are meaningful to them.
What advice do you have for other attorneys considering pro bono work?
Blair: I would encourage other lawyers to find a cause they really care about and do something that they find rewarding. A lot of people at big firms end up doing pro bono work because someone else is interested in that issue, but it’s a lot more rewarding where there is personal meaning. Also, pro bono is a great way to develop new skills and relationships with other attorneys.
Vince: I would say to be proactive, take initiative. Sometimes firms have pro bono matters that come to them; it’s good to take the initiative and try to find a matter that you are interested in personally and professionally. Pro bono is a good way to give back to the community, and it’s part of our professional responsibility as attorneys.
Thank you to Blair and Vince for telling us about the great work being done at the firm, and thank you to all of the attorneys at Holwell Shuster & Goldberg for your commitment to pro bono. Keep up the good work!