London-based associate Mercedes Samavi is the 2019 recipient of the Kathi Pugh Award for Pro Bono Service.
Since her arrival at Morrison & Foerster in 2013, Mercedes Samavi has been a consistently dedicated and enthusiastic contributor to the firm’s pro bono program, using her knowledge as a member of the Technology Transactions Group and the Global Privacy Group to advise an impressive number of nonprofit and social enterprise pro bono clients on intellectual property and data protection matters, and to help organizations draft and negotiate various types of agreements.
“Running a startup is difficult and legal help is often prohibitively expensive,” explained Simon Riley, the CEO of one of Mercedes’ clients, MakerClub, a social enterprise designed to encourage electronic engineering projects among children. “Mercedes’ help has meant that we can be confident in the partnerships that we enter into and that the company is protected with all the proper documentation,” said Simon, who noted that MakerClub recently won a grant to use its technology to work with 300 disadvantaged children to design inventions to improve the local community.
The clients that Mercedes has helped in this way include Smile Train UK, a charity that supports cleft repair; Peer Power, a social justice charity that offers bereavement and other mental health programs to people who experienced trauma as children; ISEAL Alliance, a nonprofit whose mission is to strengthen global sustainability standards systems; and Margaret Pyke Trust, a charity that promotes reproductive rights, knowledge, and services.
Like Simon, Anne-Marie Imafidon, the cofounder and CEO of Stemettes, attributes some of the success achieved by her organization, a social enterprise created to spark girls’ interest in STEM, to Mercedes’ pro bono contributions.
“We would not be where we are now as a nonprofit if not for [Mercedes’] attention to details and all round awesomeness,” said Anne-Marie. “What a lawyer. What a woman. We’re running out of ways to thank her for all she keeps doing for us.”
In addition to advising nonprofits and social enterprises, Mercedes has taken on a variety of other pro bono matters, including representing individuals with disability benefit appeals in collaboration with London-based charity Z2K (Zacchaeus 2000).
As the winner of the Kathi Pugh Award, Mercedes was given the opportunity to direct a $10,000 donation to a nonprofit organization that enhances access to justice. She has directed the contribution, which will be funded jointly by the firm and The Morrison & Foerster Foundation, to the Coram Children’s Legal Centre. The donation will support the Migrant Children’s Project, whose services include free legal advice to immigrant children and youth.
This is the sixth annual Kathi Pugh Award. New York associate Adam Hunt, San Diego associate Christian Andreu-von Euw, San Francisco senior counsel Ruth Borenstein, Washington, D.C. partner Natalie Fleming Nolen, and San Francisco partner Alfredo Silva were the firm’s prior honorees.
The Kathi Pugh Award was established by Morrison & Foerster in 2013, when Kathi Pugh retired after two decades of running the firm’s pro bono program. It recognizes the values, enthusiasm, and compassion that Kathi brought to the pro bono program and celebrates the remarkable ways that lawyers like Mercedes Samavi proudly carry out Kathi’s pro bono legacy.