Founded in a spirit of inclusiveness, personal and professional responsibility, compassion for the needs of others, and dedication to improving the communities in which we live and work, Cleary Gottlieb is fully committed to the duties of good global citizenship.

We believe pro bono work should be a mindful choice, one that expresses both personal and collective interests. So rather than make pro bono work mandatory at Cleary, we fully support the voluntary efforts of all of our lawyers and professional staff.

  • Cleary employs a team of four full-time pro bono attorneys dedicated to developing, strengthening and managing its award-winning pro bono practice, including a Director of Pro Bono who specializes in working with nonprofits and small businesses, a Pro Bono Attorney who specializes in litigation , and a Pro Bono Immigration Attorney who manages the firm’s pro bono immigration docket.
  • Each year, Cleary lawyers provide over 75,000 hours on average worldwide to pro bono legal counsel & public service efforts.

The firm recently launched the Cleary Gottlieb Fellowship Program, through which first-year associates may pursue one-year placements at legal services organizations or nonprofits in an effort to support the delivery of critically needed legal work to underserved communities. Originally conceived as a response to COVID-19 and the related dramatic increase in need for legal assistance of all kinds, the Fellowship Program is now an ongoing feature of the firm’s pro bono program.

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:

  • advocated for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to halt its practice of making civil immigration arrests in and around New York state courthouses
  • provided one-on-one legal advice to 100+ small businesses and nonprofits affected by COVID-19, providing critical assistance related to federal financial relief programs, commercial leasing issues, and contract modification and rescission questions arising as a result of the pandemic
  • developed a comprehensive national survey for the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence examining how hate crimes are defined and penalized and the extent to which violent hate crime offenders are prohibited from the purchase or possession of firearms
  • conducted legal research on dozens of international public law issues relating to post-conflict states, comparative state law practices, the rights of refugees and displaced persons, alternative dispute resolution, post-war tribunals, universal jurisdiction statutes and more
  • developed an innovative private equity-style fund structure to help facilitate one of The Nature Conservancy’s largest-ever conservation efforts, protecting 253,000 acres of forestland and ensuring the conservation of a significant part of the Central Appalachians
  • won humanitarian immigration relief for over 100 human trafficking and domestic violence survivors, unaccompanied minors, and individuals fleeing persecution from around the world
  • represented numerous domestic violence survivors in obtaining orders of protection
  • along with the Southern Poverty Law Center and Lite DePalma Greenberg, secured the dissolution of the Jewish Institute for Global Awareness, which facilitated fraudulent gay-to-straight “conversion therapy”
  • represented defendants sentenced to undue harsh sentences, including life without parole, as juveniles
  • assisted veterans in accessing benefits and appealing discharge status
  • in partnership with Brooklyn Defenders, helped launch and continue to advise the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, which has evolved from an independent nonprofit cash bail fund to a key force in the immigration bond fund space

Racial Justice & Policing

Our Pro Bono team is committed to supporting the fight to improve racial equity, support prison reform, improve policing tactics, reduce homelessness and domestic violence, and more.

We have advocated on behalf of individual clients, including:

  • assisting dozens of individuals who were sex trafficked with vacating their sex work-related convictions in NY and DC
  • assisting individuals who alleged misconduct by the NYPD while protesting in filing CCRB complaints and Notices of Claim
  • working to secure compassionate release for Black and Latinx inmates serving unduly harsh sentences who were at elevated risk of serious illness or death due to COVID-19 

While also pursuing systemic reform by:

  • filing a class action lawsuit against the New York City Policy Department (NYPD) and the City of New York challenging the NYPD’s unlawful sharing of information from sealed arrest records in defiance of longstanding privacy laws
  • partnering with The Legal Aid Society to challenge the scope of New York’s Civil Rights Law Section 50-a, which has shielded from public disclosure records relating to police officer misconduct
  • advising predominantly Black and Latinx plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit seeking federal court oversight of Chicago Police Department (CPD) operations
  • partnering with the NYU School of Law Policing Project in its effort to develop model legislation on policing and use-of-force

With 16 offices on four continents working seamlessly as one firm, Cleary has the ability to serve pro bono clients almost anywhere in the world. Whether it’s furthering the cause of democracy, helping establish satellite offices for nonprofits, ensuring safe communities for citizens or advising NGOs, Cleary takes on pro bono matters that enable us to leverage our global capacity to have a larger impact.

In addition, Cleary lawyers in our European offices participate in a variety of pro bono projects in collaboration with both international public interest organizations and local charities.

Matters outside the U.S. include:

  • working with the UK charity Toynbee Hall to sponsor and staff a free legal advice clinic on Saturday mornings for local women, many of whom have suffered abuse and have no other recourse to legal support
  • representing a client in her successful defense against her French husband before the Paris Court of Appeal and the French Supreme Court in a dispute relating to the recognition in France of a discriminatory ruling by a foreign court
  • conducting multi-jurisdictional legal research into the law and practice around female genital mutilation across various jurisdictions in Africa alongside the NGO 28 Too Many and other international law firms
  • establishing a regular remote legal advice clinic with The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network in London to advise refugee business-owners in the UK
  • representing individuals seeking refugee status determination from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and resettlement alongside the International Refugee Assistance Project
  • providing pro bono support in Germany to refugees and organizations serving refugees, including projects focused on ensuring access to Wi-fi and asylum support
  • in Italy, providing ongoing assistance to Comunità di Sant’Egidio in their charitable collaboration with the Customs and Monopoly Agency in Rome to combat poverty and hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • advising Special Olympics Italia Onius on a wide range of the association’s activities
  • advising numerous other non-profits in London and Europe on corporate and commercial issues, including charitable status, employment arrangements, intellectual property, finance, asset transfers, and the application of EU State Aid law

Our New York and London offices also 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. We also partner with NYC Legal Outreach to host a yearly one-week program designed to give a select group of minority students an introduction to life as a lawyer, including negotiating mock contracts and litigating a case before a group of volunteer “judges.”

London: Our lawyers and professional staff in London partner with a variety of organizations to improve career aspirations and social mobility. Our work in this area includes:

  • preparing resources and workshops alongside The National Literacy Trust to assist less-advantaged students develop literacy and employability skills while learning from home during the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • mentoring and offering work experience to less-advantaged university students aspiring towards a career in law under the City Solicitors’ Horizons program; and
  • collaborating with The Lord Mayor’s Appeal and The National Literacy Trust on various initiatives designed to support young women aiming to pursue a career in the City of London.

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.

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