New York of counsel Tushna Gamadia is the 2020 recipient of Morrison & Foerster’s Kathi Pugh Award for Pro Bono Service.
Since joining Morrison & Foerster in 2013, Tushna has been an outstanding contributor to the pro bono program, taking on a remarkable array of matters, many of which are outside her usual area of practice in the firm’s Real Estate and Lending + Financial Transactions Groups.
“Tushna is a quiet champion of pro bono and public service who constantly extends herself to assist pro bono clients,” said Jennifer Brown, Senior Pro Bono Counsel at Morrison & Foerster. “She jumps at the opportunity to learn new areas of pro bono practice, and sees her law degree not as a narrow qualification for real estate practice, but as a license to help low-income people improve their lives.”
Tushna has devoted much of her time to assisting immigrants who are seeking various forms of immigration relief. She is a pillar of the New York office’s U visa work, obtaining legal immigration status for undocumented survivors of domestic violence who have cooperated with law enforcement in the prosecution of their abusers. Tushna has also worked with clients to complete their applications to naturalize as U.S. citizens, and she advised an immigrant who is featured in a documentary about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, on issues that may arise as the young woman travels around the U.S. with showings of the film. She had previously helped the young woman with her DACA application.
Over the past year, Tushna has taken a leading role in the New York office’s assistance to small businesses that are struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Working in collaboration with the Small Business Legal Relief Alliance, she counsels clients primarily on their rights and obligations under their leases, and how to negotiate with their landlords.
“In addition to her own service, she is a leader for the rest of the department and is always encouraging involvement,” said Thomas Tether, of counsel in the Real Estate Group. Much of her time helping small businesses is spent supervising and encouraging more junior real estate associates who have had the confidence to volunteer for advice sessions thanks to Tushna’s guidance in discussing clients’ needs and strategies.
Tushna is also dedicated to helping vulnerable individuals petition for name changes, including a successful petition for a transgender client through a project with the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund; she is passionate about helping women who have been affected by domestic violence, and she has been a regular participant in the New York City Family Court Volunteer Lawyer Program since 2014.
“It is a great honor and very humbling to receive the Kathi Pugh Award for doing the work I love to do,” Tushna said. “Thank you to everyone who nominated me for the award, and to those who selected me to receive it. It is also an incentive to work harder to help the brave and determined pro bono clients that inspire me so much. I also want to acknowledge the selfless dedication and diligence of our firm’s pro bono counsel and the other lawyers, paralegals, and staff members who tirelessly devote their time, skills, and energy to helping our pro bono clients. Thank you to the firm for encouraging us to do this important work.”
The winner of the Kathi Pugh Award directs $10,000 in contributions to legal services agencies, jointly funded by Morrison & Foerster and the Morrison & Foerster Foundation. Befitting the breadth of her pro bono contributions, Tushna has directed the funds to four charities: Sanctuary for Families, where she currently serves on the agency’s Pro Bono Council; the Homeless Rights Project of the Legal Aid Society; Swords to Plowshares, a veterans service agency; and the Women’s Prison Association in New York, the nation’s first organization for women impacted by incarceration, founded in 1845 by abolitionist Abby Hopper Gibbons.
This is the seventh annual Kathi Pugh Award. London associate Mercedes Samavi, 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 Tushna Gamadia proudly carry out Kathi’s pro bono legacy.