CHICAGO (March 16, 2010) — Lawyers and staff from global law firm McDermott Will & Emery LLP have played important pro bono roles as mentors to three graduating seniors at Urban Prep Academy for Young Men, Chicago's only public all-male, charter high school. The school’s entire senior class of 107 students, its first since the school opened in 2006, has been accepted for admission at 72 four-year colleges across the country. This compares to recent statistics which suggest that only six percent of entering Chicago Public Schools high school freshmen graduate from accredited four-year colleges. Eight current lawyers and staff members from McDermott’s Chicago office served as full-time mentors to three of the seniors through a program sponsored by the Center for Companies That Care.
“The Companies That Care concept of mentors bonding with the same students all the way through high school is a great one, and all of our Urban Prep mentors are very proud of ‘our kids,’ and of the school and its achievement,” stated Stephen R. Miller, McDermott employee benefits law counsel and coordinator of the law firm’s Urban Prep effort. Others working with Miller as mentors included McDermott partner William J. Butler; counsel Michelle C. Burke; associates Rachel E. Aaronson, Menna Eltaki, James W. Kim and Elizabeth P. Lewis; and staff member Jerry Trenholm. Additional members of the Firm participated in a summer internship program at McDermott for the three student mentees.
“The presence and efforts of McDermott and other participants from the Center for Companies That Care have had a profound beneficial effect on an already innovative and focused school,” Miller added. “Our mentors played a part in achieving Urban Prep’s 100 percent college acceptance rate by making a deep and continuing commitment to three of those seniors.”
The Urban Prep mentorship is one of many activities that are part of McDermott’s Kids First Initiative, in which the Firm’s lawyers and staff dedicate countless pro bono hours to mentoring and tutoring inner-city students, and encouraging them to pursue their education. In another Chicago office example, lawyers and staff from the Firm mentor three students – one junior and two sophomores – at University of Chicago Charter School - Woodlawn Campus (UCW) through such activities as a “Job Shadowing Day” at McDermott for the students. Also, each year, McDermott lawyers and staff, in collaboration with the Chicago Urban Debate League and the National Association for Urban Debate Leagues, act as debate coaches in Chicago urban high schools. And in McDermott’s Partners in Reading program, more than 100 lawyers and staff volunteer Firm-wide as weekly tutors to help elementary school children in inner city schools develop reading and grammar skills.
McDermott’s substantial commitment to pro bono representation saw 70 percent of all the Firm’s lawyers participate in pro bono and community service activities during 2009 – a contribution of some 75,000 hours, equal to more than $30 million in otherwise billable time. Numerous organizations honored McDermott and its lawyers for pro bono work in 2009, including the Alliance for Children’s Rights, American Bar Association, Children’s Law Center, Human Rights First, Immigration Equality, the Jewish Alliance for Law & Social Action, the Massachusetts and New York State Bar Associations, and the Sikh Coalition, to name just a few.
McDermott Will & Emery LLP recognizes and appreciates the need to give back to the communities of which it is a part, assisting those who are unable to afford legal services. The Firm's Pro Bono & Community Services Committee seeks to ensure that the same Firm standards of quality, service and care that are given to its paying clients are also afforded to those it serves on a pro bono basis. The people of McDermott Will & Emery understand their unique obligations as lawyers to enhance the lives of those in need and are committed to ensuring that low-income and disadvantaged individuals have access to justice.