Pro Bono

Responsibility, compassion for the needs of others, and dedication to improving the communities in which we live and work—Cleary remains fully committed to the duties of good global citizenship.

Law360 named Cleary a 2016 Pro Bono Firm of the Year and a Pro Bono All Star in 2015—an honor given to firms appearing on the Pro Bono Firm of the Year list at least three times since its inception in 2010.

Since Cleary’s founding, we have believed pro bono work should be a mindful choice, one that expresses both personal and collective interests. Our firm fully supports the voluntary legal efforts of all of our lawyers.

  • More than 70 percent of Cleary lawyers logged more than 90,000 hours worldwide to pro bono legal counsel and public service efforts.
  • The firm sponsors two public interest externship programs—on a rotating basis, firm associates are placed for four months in a full-time position at either MFY Legal Services Inc. or Lawyers Alliance for New York while receiving full salary and benefits from the firm. In 1968, we were the first law firm to establish such a program.
  • In London, Cleary was the second U.S. firm to sign the Joint Protocol for Pro Bono Legal Work and is active with LawWorks, the leading pro bono resource for legal volunteers in the United Kingdom.

We approach our pro bono work exactly as we approach our paying cases: putting the full needs of the client front and center. A supervising partner at the helm of each project ensures that we leverage the full resources of the firm to solve complex legal problems, provide assistance for growing social problems and add value to all required client services.

Notable Pro Bono Projects

Our relationships with various public interest organizations open doors to a range of pro bono opportunities for all of our lawyers. Among the many recent pro bono matters handled by the firm, Cleary lawyers in the U.S. have:

  • Mobilized to represent individuals affected by the travel ban
  • Successfully sued the City of New York on behalf of women who were sexually abused at Rikers Island
  • Helped New York City Housing Authority low-income tenants formalize home-based catering businesses.
  • Fought for increased transparency and accountability in law enforcement in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago.
  • Defended the voting rights of African Americans in North Carolina
  • Won humanitarian relief for over 100 individuals and families from around the world fleeing persecution.
  • Represented domestic violence survivors in obtaining orders of protection
  • Secured a landmark victory in a consumer fraud lawsuit against conversion therapy providers for claiming to change individuals from gay to straight.
  • Cleared relevant criminal records for dozens of sex trafficking victims.
  • Represented defendants sentenced to undue harsh sentences as juveniles.
  • Helped community organizations form sustainable public/private partnerships to expand their missions.
  • Assisted veterans in accessing benefits.
  • Fought for the rights of transgender individuals denied access to public facilities and medical benefits.
  • Created public benefit corporations for social enterprises.

In New York and Washington, D.C., pro bono areas include:

  • Art and entertainment law
  • Civil rights
  • Criminal defense and death penalty cases
  • Environmental justice
  • Family law
  • Housing litigation and affordable housing development
  • Immigration
  • International human rights
  • Not-for-profit and microfinance law
  • Social enterprise and small business representation
  • Special education litigation
  • Veterans’ law

In addition:

  • In London, Cleary was the second U.S. firm to sign the Joint Protocol for Pro Bono Legal Work and is active with LawWorks, the leading pro bono resource for legal volunteers in the United Kingdom.
  • In Germany, the firm has been providing pro bono support in response to the ongoing refugee crisis, both directly to individuals and to organizations serving refugees. Among other projects, our attorneys have focused on ensuring that refugees have access to Wi-Fi and asylum support, as well as researching and exploring the wider sociological context of the crisis.
  • In addition to its usual range of pro bono work, our New York and London offices have well-developed community service programs that promote leadership and the pursuit of higher education, while bridging the gap between our lawyers and young people in our communities.
    • New York: For more than 25 years, our New York office has partnered with the Washington Irving Campus in a multiprogram year-round initiative to prepare public high school students for college and adult life.
    • London: Cleary lawyers in our London office engage in an annual six-week legal skills curriculum for 13- and 14-year-old pupils attending schools in under-resourced communities.

If You Need a Pro Bono Lawyer

Cleary Gottlieb does not accept direct requests for pro bono representation. Our pro bono clients are referred to us by legal services organizations. If you are in need of pro bono legal representation, you may be able to find help from one of these resources:

Get more information about pro bono at Cleary here.