CHICAGO - The commitment of the international law firm of McDermott Will & Emery to help children continues with the implementation of a new pro bono initiative in all of its United States offices, the "MW&E: Kids First Project." The project, coordinated in the Firm's eight U.S. offices, focuses on representing children in need to assure they receive appropriate public education and remain in school. This new pro bono effort deepens the Firm's commitment to help children, which started years ago when McDermott Will & Emery implemented a tutoring program. The tutoring program has expanded since its original inception and today Firm lawyers and staff devote thousands of hours to tutoring children.
MW&E: Kids First, organized in collaboration with a local referral agency in each office, will provide legal representation for a variety of needs, including special education for eligible children, legal inquiries regarding children with health needs, school access and registration, school discipline, school eligibility for immigrant and undocumented children, and law reform and legislative policy.
"MW&E: Kids First is a unique opportunity for our lawyers to devote their skills, knowledge and experience for the betterment of the children in the communities where we practice," commented Larry Gerber, Firm Chairman. "We hope to build a practice group with extensive experience in children's issues across all of our U.S. offices, just as we have in other areas."
Pro bono cases and projects for Kids First have already begun in the Firm's offices with help from local children's law centers, such as the Northwestern University Law School's Children and Family Justice Center in Chicago and the Public Counsel's Children's Law Project in Los Angeles. All of the Firm's U.S. offices will work a local agency to identify pro bono opportunities to help the children in their communities.
In addition to the Kids First program, the Firm also began to embark on another children-focused pro bono effort during National Adoption Month to create and provide to both clients and non-clients a standardized adoption assistance plan, employee communications and background materials to facilitate employee adoptions of parentless children. Led by David Fuller, a tax partner in the Firm's Washington, D.C. office and himself an adoptive parent, this pro bono effort in collaboration with Thompson Publishing Group, will provide free adoption assistance plans and adoption tax information to employers via a new website.
If last year's adoption tax relief benefits are properly maximized, the often overwhelming financial barriers facing adoptive parents can typically be decreased in most adoptions by more than two-thirds on an after-tax basis, and at no cost to the employer. By making such documents freely available, McDermott, Will & Emery and Thompson Publishing hope to lessen the financial barriers to adoption and thereby facilitate the adoption of the many children awaiting nurturing families and, in doing so, forever change a child's life.