Pro Bono

Lawyers in Morrison & Foerster offices all around the world live out our proud pro bono tradition every day. Their work runs the gamut, from class action representation that benefits thousands to individual advocacy for people who otherwise would be shut out from access to justice. We staff legal service clinics and counsel hundreds of nonprofit organizations and social enterprises on legal needs, from corporate formation to patent claims.

In all these matters, we are guided by the principle of according equal dignity and applying equal rigor to our pro bono endeavors. We invite you to explore some of MoFo pro bono’s most memorable moments, meet the people making a difference, and learn more about our unwavering commitment to pro bono efforts worldwide.

Accolades + Awards

Lawyers Who Lead By Example

Kudos to Linda Arnsbarger for her Dedication to Public Service

The tireless benefactor of 3,300 hours of pro bono legal work to Morrison & Foerster’s nonprofit and social enterprise clients, Washington, D.C.-based Linda Arnsbarger is the winner of the ABA Business Law Section’s 2020 National Public Service Award. The Honorable Elizabeth Stong, Co-Chair of the Business Law Section Pro Bono Committee, presented the award to Linda during the Section’s September 2020 meeting, held remotely.

A federal tax lawyer who has been with the firm for more than 30 years, Linda has worked on 482 matters for MoFo’s organizational pro bono clients, which she describes as “companies with big ideas about what they can do to help the world.” She has assisted entities at every level and as diverse as the Childhood Apraxia of Speech Association and The Nature Conservancy. The legal advice she donates spans the areas of tax, governance, contracts, and intellectual property, and spans the globe.

Nonprofits that have benefited from her pro bono counsel include an organization that provides conservation programs in the Amazon region, an organization that works to improve maternal health in East Africa, and a group that runs schools for low-income children in Cambodia.

“It’s difficult for these clients to navigate the system that our world imposes on charities,” Linda explains. “Helping them get past the red tape and move forward on their missions has been very rewarding.”

Another area of Linda’s pro bono practice involves helping nonprofits benefit from the increasing popularity of impact investing without sacrificing the tax-exempt status that the U.S. Internal Revenue Code affords to public charities.

As passionate as Linda is about her corporate work for organizational clients, she says she’s especially proud of having collaborated with members of MoFo’s appellate group in the early years of her career to work on special education issues.

“I have a personal interest in special education law and had been following the development of that law for a long time, but there hadn’t really been any pro bono work in the area,” Linda explains.

Fortunately, a then-member of the MoFo litigation group had experience working with organizations that supported children and had also worked for the Department of Education. Because the colleague of Linda’s was so well-informed in that discipline, MoFo was invited to prepare seven amicus briefs for the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of groups supporting disability rights including the National Disability Rights Network, The Arc, the Autism Society, and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty.

While amicus briefs can sometimes just reiterate the legal arguments of several other parties, Linda and her team didn’t take that approach.

“It’s not effective,” Linda says. “The important thing is to illustrate how the case and the potential decision will affect a community of people, such as children with epilepsy, children with cerebral palsy, children with autism, and the families involved. We also pulled up hard data that was deeply embedded in Department of Education databases to show that perhaps arguments being made on the other side weren’t correct.”

The MoFo team’s hard work and strategic thinking paid off.

“In at least a couple of those cases, the decision actually cited data we had used in our brief,” recalls Linda, who first joined MoFo as a summer associate. “Knowing that the arguments you’re making are being heard is definitely rewarding.”

Watch Linda’s acceptance speech during the ABA’s 2020 Section Awards Reception:

Recent Accolades + Awards:

  • The Alameda County Bar Association presented Morrison & Foerster, along with Cooley LLP, its Distinguished Service Award for providing pro bono legal services to survivors of the devastating California wildfires. Among other contributions, Morrison & Foerster has regularly published updated versions of its Helping Handbook, a legal resources guide for wildfire survivors.
  • The Center for Justice & Accountability (CJA) presented Morrison & Foerster and Dentons with its Partner in Justice Award for the firms’ extraordinary partnership and work together on Boniface v. Viliena. This high profile case is challenging governmental corruption in Haiti and is seeking recourse on behalf of individuals who suffered human rights violations at the hands of the government. CJA recognized the firms as “remarkable partners in our pursuit of justice, going above and beyond in supporting our clients and the case in every way possible.”
  • Public Counsel named Morrison & Foerster its Pro Bono Firm of the Year for the firm’s work on Ella T. v. State of California, the first civil rights action brought under any state constitution to protect students’ right to access to literacy. The case culminated in the State of California’s agreement to establish a $50 million block grant for high-needs schools, new statewide guidance on recently enacted legislation to address punitive school discipline, and an additional $3 million to establish an expert lead on literacy that will support school districts across California in improving literacy instruction.
  • The Law Society of Hong Kong has honored Morrison & Foerster with the Silver Law Firm Award as part of its 2020 Pro Bono and Community Work Recognition Programme. The award honors local and foreign law firms who have demonstrated outstanding commitment to volunteer pro bono and community work. The Law Society also honored seven lawyers in Morrison & Foerster’s Hong Kong office for their pro bono contributions, including Hong Kong Managing Partner Timothy Blakely. The firm engages in pro bono efforts in Hong Kong that range from counseling nonprofit organizations and social enterprises on legal needs to individual advocacy for people who otherwise would be shut out from access to justice.
  • The Federal Bar Council of the Second Circuit announced that New York litigation associate Chanwoo Park is the recipient of its Thurgood Marshall Award for Exceptional Pro Bono Service. Chanwoo currently represents four Black and Hispanic middle school girls who were subjected to non-consensual, intrusive searches, a case that highlights the issue of disproportionate school discipline imposed on Black girls. The award celebrates lawyers who practice within the Second Circuit and have demonstrated an exemplary commitment to pro bono legal services.
  • The Alliance for Housing and Healing presented Morrison & Foerster with its Vanguard Award at a virtual ceremony. The Alliance recognized the firm for its successful defense of the Alliance against two lawsuits. Alliance provides the basic necessities of life – food and shelter – to people struggling with poverty, homelessness and HIV/AIDS in Los Angeles County.
  • Lawyers Alliance for New York named Morrison & Foerster to receive its 2020 Cornerstone Award—its highest honor—in recognition of the firm’s exceptional record of providing pro bono legal services to the nonprofit organizations that serve and strengthen low-income New Yorkers. Over the last five years MoFo has undertaken 45 different legal matters for 35 organizations, offering corporate, intellectual property, employment and restructuring advice. Firm chair Larren Nashelsky is currently leading a team preparing a toolkit to help nonprofits that are facing pandemic-related financial stress understand their options under the Bankruptcy Code for restructuring or liquidation.
  • Morrison & Foerster was given the 2020 Corporate Pillar Award on behalf of its partnership with the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and Gilead. The San Francisco AIDS Foundation gave the firm this award because of its long standing support through advocacy, pro bono legal counsel, volunteering and funding that demonstrates “a true partnership in [its] fight for health justice.”
  • Legal Aid at Work presented San Francisco partner Jack Londen with its Distinguished Service Award for his support of justice and equity for all. Legal Aid at Work is a nonprofit legal services organization that has been assisting low-income, working families for more than 100 years.
  • The National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA) selected the firm as one of its 2020 Beacon of Justice Award recipients. NLADA noted the firm’s work challenging conditions at U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s short-term detention facilities in Arizona, describing it as “indicative of your firm’s thoughtful and strategic approach to pro bono work in this space.”
  • LawWorks, a charity committed to enabling access to justice in England and Wales, presented Morrison & Foerster’s London office with its “Best Pro Bono Contribution” award (for firms with medium-sized UK offices). The award recognized the firm’s work with Z2K (Zacchaeus Trust 2000), a nonprofit dedicated to helping clients seeking disability benefits navigate the challenging social security and welfare system in the UK. Since February 2018, Morrison & Foerster has taken approximately 30 disability benefits appeals with an over 90 percent success rate, securing more than £500,000 in additional benefits for our clients.
  • Swords to Plowshares recognized the firm as its Pro Bono Partner of the Year. San Francisco litigation partner Stacey Sprenkel accepted the award on behalf of the firm. Morrison & Foerster has supported Swords to Plowshares for almost 20 years with leadership on its Board of Directors, providing legal counseling at legal clinics, taking on full representation of veterans’ cases, and most notably working on impact litigation lawsuits, including a class action lawsuit on behalf of veterans who had been subjected to chemical and biological testing while they were in service. The award recognized the MoFo team’s success in requiring the U.S. Army to provide health information to veterans regarding their participation in the secret testing program and medical care for conditions caused by this participation.
  • California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA) honored the firm and The Morrison & Foerster Foundation with its 2019 Ambassador for Justice Award. The firm’s wide-ranging pro bono matters with CRLA have included winning years of overtime pay for a dairy worker, fighting the criminalization of homelessness in Manteca, overcoming barriers to low-income housing construction in Colusa County, and responding to the legal needs of California wildfire survivors. The Foundation supports an Equal Justice Works Fellow, Curtis Davis, who empowers low-income students and their families to prevent the disproportionate placement of children of color in alternative school settings in Imperial County public schools.
  • The California Lawyers Association gave its Bernard E. Witkin Medal to James Brosnahan, Senior Counsel for his significant contributions to the quality of justice and legal scholarship in California.
  • The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area gave the firm its Martin Luther King Award for its civil rights advocacy in helping individuals and families who are detained in deplorable conditions at the U.S. Border Patrol Detention Centers. Attorneys Colette Reiner Mayer, Louise Stoupe, Elizabeth Balassone and Pieter de Ganon along with senior paralegals Anne Le Pore and Gary Stenger were recognized for their pro bono efforts and human rights advocacy.
  • The American Bar Association presented San Francisco litigation partner Arturo González with its Pro Bono Publico Award, the highest honor given by the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service. The award recognizes González for his work on more than 100 pro bono cases during his career, which have secured favorable outcomes for clients in key areas of the law. These include ensuring the right to an education for low-income children, protecting the constitutional rights of communities of color, and curbing abusive tactics and procedures used by law enforcement agencies.
  • The American Bar Association selected Senior Trial Counsel James J. Brosnahan to receive its 2019 John H. Pickering Achievement Award. The Pickering Award honors an individual for brilliant legal work, advocacy of pro bono service, dedication to equal justice for all, and promotion of the highest standards of ethics and professionalism in law. The ABA recognized Brosnahan as a “lion of the law” and “one of the most recognized and respected trial lawyers in the United States,” who has tried more than 140 cases to their conclusion. Brosnahan was also credited for founding the Justice and Diversity Center of the Bar Association of San Francisco and for being an outspoken supporter of the “Civil Gideon” movement, seeking to establish a right to counsel in civil cases when basic human needs are at stake.
  • The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs gave the firm its Outstanding Achievement Award for its precedent-setting triumph in the Belmont Crossing case strengthening Washington, D.C.’s prohibition against housing discrimination based on source of income.
  • The Colorado Lawyers Committee (CLC) recognized Denver-based MoFo litigation partner Scott Llewellyn and his fellow members of the Jail Wait Litigation Team with the CLC Team of the Year award at the CLC's annual Awards Luncheon for volunteer lawyers on May 2, 2019. The multi-firm Jail Wait Litigation Team has advocated for people with mental illnesses for 11 years and recently negotiated a landmark settlement that will significantly reduce the criminalization of the mentally ill in Colorado.
  • In recognition of the firm’s success in a number of cases, including representing Georgia voters in a federal lawsuit filed against state officials on a groundbreaking claim: that maintaining an unsecured, all-electronic voting system with no paper back-up violates the right to vote.
  • In recognition of the firm’s work on Housing Works v. County of Los Angeles, a case brought to increase access to much needed benefits for indigent Californians with mental and developmental disabilities.
  • In recognition of MoFo’s pro bono work in challenging inhumane conditions for immigrants housed in short-term immigration detention centers run by U.S. Customs and Border Control in Arizona
  • In recognition of the firm’s longstanding contribution of pro bono legal services and its financial support through The Morrison & Foerster Foundation.
  • In recognition for the firm’s success in securing medical care for veterans who suffered lasting effects after undergoing secret tests of toxins and psychological agents during their military service decades ago
  • In recognition of pro bono legal services that strengthen the global social entrepreneurship movement and improve the lives of the world’s poor and disenfranchised
  • Presented to the firm and its lawyers who worked on the Hart v. Berryhill class action, which is bringing relief to thousands of Bay Area residents who were unjustly denied disability benefits
  • Honoring the commitment of MoFo Berlin lawyers serving as guardians for unaccompanied refugee children and the firm’s extensive legal assistance to nonprofit organizations that are dedicated to supporting the refugee community
  • Housing Works California presented Morrison & Foerster with its Tom McGuiness Community Leadership Award for its work in Housing Works v. County of Los Angeles. The firm, together with several legal services groups, is representing people with mental disabilities to secure better access to public benefits in Los Angeles County. The clients include County residents who were unable to secure and maintain General Relief Benefits due to their mental disabilities and organizations that provide aid to these residents.
  • Adam Hunt received the New York State Bar Association President’s Pro Bono Service Award for his outstanding pro bono contributions to vulnerable New Yorkers. The award recognizes Adam’s role in several pro bono matters, including impact litigation to reform solitary confinement; rein in unwarranted surveillance of religious and political groups; and increase payments to meet the needs of children in foster care. Adding to the honor, Adam won the award for the First Judicial District (Manhattan), location of the single largest concentration of lawyers in the country.
  • Presented to the firm for litigation advocacy on behalf of special education students in the Mt. Vernon, New York school system
  • In recognition of the firm’s June 2016 Supreme Court victory in the most important abortion rights case of a generation, Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt
  • Recognized as a top ten law firm contributor to the Legal Services NYC pro bono program
  • Recognizing the firm for co-counseling a legal challenge to court delays that deny the right to a speedy trial to Bronx defendants who are accused of misdemeanors
  • Los Angeles Litigation Senior Counsel Timothy Ryan received the First District Appellate Project Volunteer of the Year Award. FDAP--a nonprofit law office that ensures quality representation of indigent appellants in criminal, delinquency, dependency and mental health appeals in California’s First District Court of Appeal--recognized Timothy in appreciation for providing outstanding pro bono employment law advice to FDAP.
  • Honoring MoFo’s Tokyo office for its research on the subject of “Coercion and Consent in Sex” for pro bono client Amnesty International
  • For the firm’s contributions to the immigrants’ rights movement, in particular, for co-counseling with the Center and others against the U.S. Border Patrol for inhumane conditions at its detention facilities in Arizona
  • Law 360 named Morrison & Foerster to its Pro Bono Firms of the Year list for the seventh time. The list recognizes the top pro bono firms in the country, based on a record of pro bono victories, a willingness to tackle tough pro bono cases, and an overall outstanding commitment to pro bono work. MoFo is one of only two firms in the country that has appeared on this list every year since it began.
  • The State Bar of California conferred its 2016 Jack Berman Award of Achievement on Morrison & Foerster associate Elizabeth Balassone in a ceremony held during its annual meeting. The award recognizes exemplary pro bono service provided by lawyers in their first five years of practice.
  • Recognizing the firm’s dedication to the Project’s mission of seeking justice for the wrongfully convicted
  • For the firm’s associates and paralegals who dedicated time to cases referred by the Program, ranging from guardianships and tax advice to the trial of a custody case
  • Recognizing the firm for a California effort that led to the modernization of the state's voter registration system and North Carolina litigation focused on voter registration by the state’s motor vehicles department and public assistance agency
  • Recognizing MoFo New York lawyers for representing former students of unscrupulous trade schools in seeking to be discharged from heavy burdens of student loan debt that yielded no educational benefit
  • Derek Foran, Christopher Robinson and Linda Shostak received the Christopher Tietze Humanitarian Award from the National Abortion Federation (NAF), which honors significant, lifetime contributions in the field of abortion service delivery and/or policy. NAF recognized the MoFo pro bono litigation team for representing the organization in a lawsuit to protect against the disclosure of secretly recorded videos of abortion providers taken by anti-abortion activists who used subterfuge and fraud to attend NAF's annual meetings.
  • Honoring 16 MoFo lawyers and staff members for their contributions to public service and volunteer efforts with the JDC
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