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Pro Bono

Making a Difference Where It Matters

Pro bono initiatives provide an opportunity to connect with the human side of the practice of law and to give back to our communities. At V&E, our lawyers are guided by the principle that pro bono clients — like all of our clients — should be fully and effectively represented. As a result, we devote significant time and financial resources to the legal needs of individuals and organizations that cannot afford representation.

From senior partners to first-year associates, our lawyers donate their skills and time to personal passions that make lasting impacts on others in need. On average, 30,000 hours or more of pro bono legal service are provided each year by V&E lawyers.

Our pro bono work is sourced from attorneys interested in specific issues, legal service providers who work each day to improve the lives of others, and from partnering with clients to assist the underserved. Whether we’re helping to reunite mothers and children, assisting Holocaust victims in the U.S. with obtaining restitution from the German government, or representing U.S. veterans and active duty military personnel with legal problems, V&E’s long tradition of pro bono service has grown to become a broad and diverse practice area.

V&E’s full-time Pro Bono Counsel, Ellyn Haikin Josef, along with Fry Wernick, Pro Bono Chair, and the firm’s Pro Bono Committee, leads our robust program.

Corporate Pro Bono: V&E lawyers donate a considerable amount of pro bono legal services to non-profit corporations, assisting with a variety of legal matters, including real estate transactions, corporate governance, employment and labor issues, and other general counsel work. This work ensures that the non-profits providing services in our communities each day are able to fulfill their missions without financial burdens or worries of legal hurdles.

Guardianship Project: V&E teamed up with corporate clients, hospitals, and legal service providers to assist low-income families in Houston, Dallas, and New York with obtaining guardianship over their incapacitated adult children. Without guardianships, these parents would be unable to communicate with their child’s doctors and other providers, or enroll their child in educational or medical programs. The project has provided assistance to more than 50 families with many more in the pipeline.

Law Firm Antiracism Alliance (LFAA): V&E is committed to advancing inclusion and racial justice efforts as a charter member of the Law Firm Antiracism Alliance (LFAA). We are leveraging resources to amplify the voices of communities and individuals oppressed by racism, to better use the law as a vehicle for change that benefits communities of color, and to promote racial equity in the law. Read more about the LFAA here.

Veteran’s Initiative: In response to hearing heart-wrenching stories in the media about legal problems faced by many of our veterans and active duty military who did not have the resources to effectively handle these problems, V&E launched our Veteran’s Initiative. Cases range from improper denial of military benefits to defending a Marine Corps officer in a 17-day trial in front of the first Marine Court of Inquiry in more than 50 years.

Virtual Legal Clinics: V&E is proud to have pioneered the Virtual Legal Advice Clinic, where lawyers meet with low-income clients, for general or topic-specific legal advice, using Skype. Clients are hosted at the office of legal aid organizations, and our lawyers are able to provide pro bono service without leaving their offices. V&E conducts virtual clinics quarterly, and has served approximately 40 clients remotely thus far.

London: Lawyers in the London office get involved in a wide variety of initiatives including (among other things) projects for Trust Law, working with NGOs and charities on (often cross-jurisdictional) matters, and representing litigants in person in Court of Appeal proceedings, through the RCJ Advice centre, and have recently been:

  • representing a charitable foundation for the promotion of history, language and culture in a force majeure dispute with a hospitality venue related to Covid-19;
  • working with 10×10 Philanthropy (a live crowdfunding charity which matches young philanthropists and volunteers with grassroots charities) to formally establish its UK operations, including assisting them with incorporation of a UK company limited by guarantee, registration with the Charity Commission and registration for gift aid with HMRC;
  • assisting World Medical Fund, a UK charity which brings healthcare and health education to children and the wider rural communities of Malawi, with certain employment and contractual matters; and
  • working with Working Families, a UK charity which supports individuals by providing advice on a variety of employment issues (and more specifically, in 2020, on the impact of COVID-19 on employment rights).

Asia: Lawyers from V&E’s Asia offices, partnering with lawyers in our U.S. offices, took on a pro bono project to conduct a comparative study on compensation for the mental suffering of rape victims, and rape and prostitution laws relating to minors. The extensive study will go far in ensuring that these important issues are addressed appropriately in China.

UAE: Lawyers from V&E’s UAE office assisted an organization dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty by ensuring all children have access to quality primary education. V&E is proud to have supported this organization with pro bono work since its establishment in 2008. The charity has provided education and infrastructure to more than 7 million children in 28 countries.

Client Partnership: Through our pro bono partnership with Dell, V&E lawyers represented a young girl who came to the U.S. from the Philippines at 14 to live with her father. She ran away after her father threatened to sell her into prostitution. Upon receiving her information from the Department of Homeland Security, V&E lawyers realized the girl was rightfully a U.S. citizen under the Child Citizenship Act. Lawyers filed the appropriate paperwork, prepared the client, and attended the interview. As a result of these efforts, the young girl’s application was approved and she can now legally live and work in the U.S.

Family Law: In 2011, the Legal Aid Society of The District of Columbia asked V&E to represent a mother in a pending custody case filed by the father of their four-year-old daughter. The mother, who has four children, had recently obtained a civil protection order against the father who had allegedly perpetrated domestic violence against the mother and was suspected of abuse or neglect against the daughter for whom he had filed for sole custody. Over the course of nearly two years, our successful representation of the mother included numerous hearings in the Family Division of DC Superior Court, a home study, mental health evaluation, and interactive assessment, in addition to child support proceedings.

Corporate Pro Bono: V&E lawyers represented a group of passionate parents with an organization called Connecting Point Park Cities in seeking its 501(c)(3) status. The pro bono assistance has gone far beyond tax advice as our lawyers helped the organization develop a post-secondary learning environment for handicapped young adults. In today’s times of budget cuts, handicapped young adults are often overlooked with respect to available resources, making this an especially rewarding project.

Asylum: V&E lawyers assisted Lucy,* a 14-year-old girl originally from El Salvador, in obtaining special immigrant juvenile status (SIJS). Lucy’s father came to the U.S. to work and support his family. When Lucy’s mother passed away, she lived with her uncle who later became a target of extortion and gang violence, forcing the entire family to flee El Salvador for safety. The family undertook a long journey that included walking in the desert for nearly a week. Shortly after crossing the U.S. border, the family was taken into custody by immigration authorities. Lucy was eventually reunited with her father in the U.S., but faced deportation proceedings. After a lengthy legal process, including appearances in both state family court and federal immigration court, Lucy was granted SIJS and permanent legal residency. Lucy is currently enrolled in middle school in Houston, where her favorite class is science, and she enjoys dancing and soccer.  *Name is a pseudonym.

Protecting Voting Rights: Since 2019, V&E supported Crystal Mason-Hobbs, a defendant fighting a five-year state jail sentence for alleged illegal voting. V&E represented the League of Women Voters of Texas and the Texas State Conference of the NAACP, as amici curiae in support of Ms. Mason’s appeal. In March 2024, Ms. Mason was fully acquitted on remand from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Ms. Mason’s case gained national attention in the wake of a larger conversation about whether voting laws in some states are unfairly excluding certain populations from voting.

  • T. Mark Kelly

    We have long been committed to providing legal services to our community and to those who cannot afford legal counsel. This work is a privilege and a hallmark of our profession.

Our Firm

  • 480+
    Pro Bono Matters Annually
  • 25K+
    Pro Bono Hours Annually Across Our Communities
  • 500+
    Charitable and Arts Organizations Supported