The Public Service Project (PSP) is the cornerstone of the firm’s longtime commitment to serving the public interest: pro bono publico – a tradition dating to the firm’s founding in Lower Manhattan in 1876. Launched in March 2001, the PSP provides a broad array of legal assistance, concentrating on underserved, under-resourced communities in New York City. The PSP has received close to 100 awards since its founding, a reflection of our attorneys’ enduring dedication and our commitment as a firm.
We were among the first firms to create from within a permanent, firm-wide pro bono infrastructure led by a full-time lawyer directing the PSP. Our forward-thinking and lean, centralized structure in this arena has fostered a nimble practice. For example, we were among the first firms to focus on transactional or business pro bono, including by representing micro-entrepreneurs in different aspects of their business growth and by developing long-term general counsel relationships with nonprofit clients. We were also among the first to emphasize inter-departmental teams. When crises have arisen, we have helped shape the private bar response to disasters from September 11 to Katrina to Superstorm Sandy. Today, we remain one of the few firms to be led by a full-time pro bono partner.
We develop our pro bono work in much the same way that we develop our other business groups – by constantly re-assessing our practice and fine-tuning core areas of concentration, including Community Development; Disability Rights; Schools & Education; and Women, Family & Children. In addition, the PSP is a leader in disaster legal relief responsiveness, drawing from our frontline experience after September 11, Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy. We are also eager to continue to develop our efforts to counsel nonprofits engaged in environmental justice and sustainability work. Each of these “hubs” has multiple and mutually reinforcing spokes.
The PSP also encourages our attorneys to explore their own paths to public service, whether arising from current events, law school clinic experience, board and community service, or lifetime interest.
Our pro bono work and the PSP tie into and support other core aspects of our identity, from our thoughtful diversity efforts and associate-led affinity groups, to careful recruiting and individualized professional development. We are proud of our reputation for service to those in need among legal services providers, public servants, courts, law schools and other firms, as well as among our clients. The Director of the PSP, Kevin Curnin, recently served as President of the Association of Pro Bono Counsel, for example, the preeminent big law pro bono organization, in addition to serving on many other boards. Our pro bono work complements and elevates our 142-year commitment to client-based, informed, effective legal counsel.
While an ethical imperative and our historical dedication directs us to this enriching work – making us better lawyers and a better firm in the process – it is our experience with our clients that defines the work and informs our always-evolving assessment of what it means to improve access to justice.