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San Francisco law firm increases global impact, continues to serve locals in need

Sat, 02 Jan 2010 14:06:00
4 / 5 (1 Votes)
Article by:
Morgan Davis
By Morgan Davis
What began as a small law firm in the heart of San Francisco almost 115 years ago, has expanded to a global organization that has expanded its reach and impact around the globe.

Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP is considered by many to be one of the best-performing firms in the region and an international powerhouse that continues to jump in industry and professional rankings and to gain recognition for its diversity, employee satisfaction and commitment to the community. It has offices across the United States, as well as in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

A global force, Orrick makes sure it does its part to be environmentally conscious, starting with its building located at 405 Howard St. The building is not only LEED – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – certified, meeting the highest green building standards, but the design also includes an innovative HVAC system with the latest under-the floor energy efficient system. All Orrick offices have chairs containing high-recycled content components and low volatile organic compound emission. In 2010, Orrick will sponsor numerous environmental and new energy conferences.

Orrick not only prides itself on its commitment to sustainable practices, but also on its community responsibility.
In 2008, the firm supported more than 200 community service organizations by providing financial contributions, volunteerism and also pro bono legal services, partnering with other legal service organizations to bring aid to those without access. Its community annual report shows Orrick’s Northern California offices donated a total of more than 27,000 pro bono hours and handled 363 pro bono matters all for the benefit of low-income persons and nonprofits serving the poor. Across the practices, Orrick had more than 650 active pro bono matters in 2008.

How does one who needs legal counsel and is unable to access it reach Orrick? Rene Kathawala, the firm’s wide pro bono coordinator and counsel, elaborated on the process.

“A non-profit or low-income person brings their needs to our firm’s attention through a referral from one of our more than 195 legal services organization partners or by contacting me directly,” Kathawala said. Locally, these legal service organizations include the Bar Association of San Francisco Volunteer Legal Services Program, Barristers Club San Francisco, Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom, Bay Area Lawyers for the Arts and Bay Area Legal Aid.include the Bar Association of San Francisco Volunteer Legal Services Program, Barristers Club San Francisco, Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom, Bay Area Lawyers for the Arts and Bay Area Legal Aid.

“We are one of only a handful of firms I’m aware of that takes cold-calls and screens pro bono matters for merit and financial eligibility,” Kathawala said, adding that there are certain factors that will improve a client’s case for assistance. “The most important factors are qualifying the client for financial eligibility, attracting one or more pro bono attorneys to the project, including a partner supervisor and also ensuring that we have the expertise to handle the matter, either through our own substantive knowledge or having the ability to learn the substantive law through training and support from one of our legal services organization partners.”

What can an organization do if they do not qualify for pro bono assistance?

“Gain a referral to an excellent attorney who is willing to do the work for a reasonable fee,” Kathawala said. “Many state and local bar associations have excellent referral services established to connect expert attorneys with potential clients.”
Orrick focuses on supporting organizations in the arts, education, legal services and community building. It considers grant requests from charitable organizations based on the active involvement of its lawyers and staff. Community partners in the Bay Area include Aim High, the San Francisco Opera, SFMOMA and numerous law schools. Even if an organization is not directly associated with an employee at Orrick, there are still routes to connect.

“We are happy to circulate volunteer opportunities internally among our people so we can connect our staff with nonprofits looking for help,” Kathawala said.

In the turbulent global climate for the LGBT community, Orrick’s commitment remains steady. In the 2009, Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index – a report card on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality in corporate America – Orrick received a 100 percent rating for the third consecutive year. Pro bono work on behalf of the LGBT community has included impact litigation concerning discrimination by adoption services for the National Lesbian Rights Center and front-page litigation victories for the ACLU Lesbian & Gay Rights Project.

In 2008, a team of local lawyers secured political asylum for a gay client from Colombia who faced persecution in his home country due to his sexual orientation. For the fourth consecutive year, Orrick was recognized by Multicultural Law Magazine as one of the “Top 100 Law Firms for Diversity,” achieving the sixth highest ranking on its 2009 list.

“We are committed to supporting all of the communities where we live and work, especially San Francisco, the city where we were founded,” Kathawala said. “We’re proud that each year our partnerships with charitable groups grow stronger and deeper.”
 
For more information about Orrick’s pro bono services, community sponsorship and volunteerism, visit www.orrick.com.

 
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