S&C and Pro Bono

A Vibrant Relationship





 

Commitment to pro bono work has been a core value of S&C since our founding. Over the years, we’ve helped clients and nonprofit organizations in need, changing lives and making legal history. Today, our pro bono practice spans a wide range of issues and reflects the legal diversity of our lawyers’ interests. Last year, we devoted more than 58,000 hours to pro bono and other public service matters. 

S&C actively encourages its lawyers to participate in pro bono and other public service activities and makes the Firm's facilities and personnel fully available to assist in these efforts.

Meet Jessica Klein, Head of Pro Bono 

Inspired by her clinical work in law school, Jessica Klein knew that she wanted to make pro bono a part of her experience at S&C. Within a few months of starting as an associate in the Litigation Group, Jessica reached out to the NAACP to ask how she could help. An active pro bono docket throughout her years at S&C followed. The opportunity to become Special Counsel & Head of Pro Bono seemed like a perfect fit. We spoke with Jessica about her role and what it means to her.

Why did you choose to lead S&C's pro bono efforts?
Pro bono work has always been very important to me. As an associate, my favorite case was one of my pro bono matters. I thought leading S&C's pro bono practice would be an incredible opportunity to represent pro bono clients on a full-time basis and actively mentor young lawyers who are doing their first witness prep, or making their first appellate argument. And that's a thrill!

Tell us about how you transitioned into this role?
I've worked on pro bono cases since law school and then as a summer associate at S&C and throughout my years as a litigation associate. I took on a different pro bono matter almost every year. Within months of starting as an associate, I worked on a case with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund addressing indigent defense funding in Mississippi. Since that time I've also litigated prisoners' rights and immigration cases.

A significant amount of our pro bono opportunities have a litigation component. There are skill sets that come up repeatedly on litigation matters, whether they're for paying clients or pro bono clients, like legal research, legal writing, taking a deposition or examining a witness. These skill sets have proved very helpful in this particular role. 

I did have to learn and grow a little bit in the transactional area and, thus, I have partnered with others to figure out how to continue to bring the Firm's lawyers great pro bono transactional work.

What are some of the more challenging and/or rewarding aspects of your role?
A challenge and a benefit of doing so much pro bono work is that you become more involved in your clients' lives and struggles. The degree to which a client is emotionally in his or her case hits home when you do pro bono work for an individial client.

What advice would you give to associates who would like to become more involved in pro bono work?
I would encourage lawyers to think about what is important to them and pursue those issues in their pro bono work. I think the work is even more meaningful if you feel passionate about the social justice issues you're addressing. Occasionally, it is a topic that resonates with one's personal history.

There are tremendous opportunities to help people and to gain responsibility on these matters even at a junior level. There is a need for pro bono assistance on any variety of topics; it's not as if you have to work on only one area of the law in order to have opportunities to develop your legal skills while advancing social justice initiatives.

For example, it is possible to take on a pro bono case on behalf of the Kings County District Attorney's office to get experience doing appellate work on a criminal law matter. Within a matter of months, the lawyer is making an appellate argument in court. As an associate, my first closing argument was on a pro bono matter. I think the balance that pro bono work provides to the Firm's lawyers is really incredible. Plus, it feels really good to be helping people in need.

Below, listen to Jessica Klein and our Chief Legal Talent Officer Milana Hogan discuss the Firm's pro bono work during the COVID-19 pandemic.