BOSTON (May 1, 2009) — McDermott Will & Emery LLP is one of two Massachusetts law firms selected to receive the Massachusetts Bar Association (MBA) Access to Justice Award, given annually in recognition of exemplary efforts in providing pro bono legal services to the public. The Award will be presented at the Access to Justice Awards Luncheon on May 7, 2009, to be held at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston.
The MBA's Access to Justice Section selects the Award winners from candidates nominated by legal organizations, with the selections approved by the MBA House of Delegates. McDermott was nominated for the Award by Children's Law Center of Massachusetts (CLCM), a non-profit, legal advocacy and resource organization that provides legal assistance to low-income children in Eastern Massachusetts. The nomination was also supported by Medical Legal Partnership│Boston (MLP), an interdisciplinary medical-legal team that collaborates with legal aid and medical service organizations to improve the health and well-being of vulnerable populations in Massachusetts.
McDermott and CLCM have worked in pro bono partnership since 2003, and since 2007 the two organizations have been deeply involved in an innovative juvenile justice project. McDermott sponsors an Equal Justice Works Fellow, Lia Monahon, at CLCM to review life without parole sentences for juveniles in Massachusetts. McDermott has made that sponsorship part of a Firm-wide effort in which over 40 lawyers, summer associates, and paralegals have worked to interview 30 prisoners who received life without parole sentences when they were between the ages of 14 and 17. The one important goal of this extensive research and case review project is completion in 2009 of a report assessing the origins and impact of these sentences in Massachusetts. The project received a 2008 Leadership Award from Citizens for Juvenile Justice.
Since 2005, McDermott and MLP have coordinated efforts to support the integration of lawyers as part of the health care team treating low-income populations. This collaboration has expanded the reach of medical-legal partnership services to vulnerable patients in the Boston area, in concerns ranging from disability benefits to special education services. During this working relationship, more than 70 McDermott lawyers, summer associates, paralegals and staff have donated time to working on MLP projects, a contribution of more than 1,400 hours of legal service valued at more than $450,000 to MLP projects.
"McDermott and the lawyers of our Boston office are deeply gratified to receive the Access to Justice Award, particularly since it recognizes the vital work that we have undertaken with CLCM and MLP," stated Melissa Nott Davis, a Trial Department partner in the McDermott Boston office and co-chair of the office's Pro Bono Committee. "Our Firm understands and appreciates the need to give back to the communities of which we are a part, and strongly encourages lawyers and staff to participate in pro bono initiatives. We are particularly proud of our accomplishments in the Boston office, where nearly 90 percent of all lawyer and paralegal timekeepers worked on pro bono and community service matters in 2008 for a contribution of more than 12,000 hours of pro bono service."
In addition to the work that members of McDermott's Boston office have undertaken with CLCM and MLP, the wide reach of the office's other pro bono initiatives during 2008 and 2009 includes these notable successes:
Securing precedent-setting judgments in two cases before the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, which protected the rights of Muslim prison inmates to traditional food and prayer services under Islamic law, and which affirmed the access of transgender inmates to appropriate medical care.
Supporting the work of the Political Asylum/Immigration Representation Project (PAIR) to secure safety and freedom for asylum-seekers fleeing persecution, an effort that included successful asylum proceedings for an Ugandan victim of domestic violence and a Malian woman who had been tortured and gang raped due to her homosexuality.
Receiving the 2008 Robert B. Fraser Award for Pro Bono Excellence from the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts of Massachusetts, in recognition of McDermott's dedication to serving the legal needs of the cultural and artistic communities of Massachusetts.
Providing ongoing support to McDermott's own Kids First Initiative, which represents individual children with learning disabilities to ensure their rights to equal education opportunities.
McDermott Will & Emery is a premier international law firm with a diversified business practice. Numbering more than 1,100 lawyers, the Firm has offices in Boston, Brussels, Chicago, Düsseldorf, Houston, London, Los Angeles, Miami, Milan, Munich, New York, Orange County, Rome, San Diego, Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C. and also has a strategic alliance with MWE China Law Offices in Shanghai.