2022 Pro Bono Award Recipient: Duane Morris LLP
Duane Morris LLP has been an outstanding pro bono partner to Philadelphia’s legal aid agencies for many years. During the past 15 years, Duane Morris has donated more than 390,000 pro bono hours. In the Philadelphia office, the participation rate in pro bono activities and the number of pro bono hours donated has doubled since 2015. Unlike other firms, Duane Morris does not have a pro bono requirement for its attorneys. Their robust pro bono participation is a testament to the firm’s culture and to leadership’s commitment to serving community through pro bono.
Duane Morris has performed incredible and innovative pro bono work for immigrants in the Greater Philadelphia Area. For over a decade, Duane Morris has joined with HIAS Pennsylvania and American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) of Philadelphia to organize Philadelphia’s citywide Citizenship Day, a nationwide day that helps thousands of eligible legal permanent residents to prepare and apply for U.S. naturalization. Duane Morris also took over HIAS’ citizenship clinic at the Community College of Philadelphia (CCP) in 2018. That clinic is run out of CCP’s Single Stop Office, which connects students with everything from health insurance to legal aid, financial assistance, and more.
Responding to the crisis in Afghanistan, in August 2021, Duane Morris mobilized over 100 attorneys and staff to assist over 400 Afghan nationals seeking safety via Humanitarian Parole, Special Immigration Visas, F-1, family, and other avenues. Duane Morris also trained and mobilized in-house attorneys and staff at PNC Bank and Comcast as well. By hosting pro bono clinics over Zoom, Duane Morris was able to tap volunteers from offices across the country to help hundreds of refugees with ties to Philadelphia. Duane Morris continues this work helping numerous Afghans evacuated to the U.S. apply for asylum, special immigrant visas, and other forms of immigration relief. Since August 2021, the firm has donated over nearly 3,000 pro bono hours to helping Afghans refugees.
This past year, Duane Morris also successfully litigated a precedential decision before the Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirming that asylees need not subject themselves to physical harm or arrest to reasonably fear persecution by an oppressive regime.
Duane Morris also provides compassionate legal assistance to immigrants who are victims of intimate personal violence. Duane Morris has donated over 4,000 pro bono hours in Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) cases, helping more than 50 immigrant survivors of intimate personal violence stabilize their immigration statuses. In 2016, Duane Morris stepped up to close a huge gap in legal services for these survivors by teaming up with Congreso de Latinos Unidos and HIAS PA to hold monthly legal clinics providing free legal screening, brief advice, and full representation to survivors. In doing so, Duane Morris helps their clients achieve independence free from abuse. For many immigrants who are victims of intimate partner violence, their lack of legal immigration status is used against them as a tool of control.
Duane Morris also was recognized for its pro bono representation of The Food Trust (TFT), thereby furthering TFT’s mission of ensuring delicious, nutritious food for all. Duane Morris helped TFT negotiate agreements and memorandums with partners on their Food Bucks project, which increases demand for fresh produce in historically under-resourced neighborhood and makes fresh produce more affordable for shippers paying with SNAP while also supporting local farmers/small businesses. The firm also helped negotiate with a produce prescription provider for digital coupons redeemable at stores in North Philadelphia and developed agreements with local artists and store owners to paint murals on the sides of corner stores in Camden.
Duane Morris likewise has been a critical partner to the Women’s Law Project (WLP) during a tumultuous time for women’s access to reproductive healthcare. In 2021, a team of Duane Morris attorneys represented medical professionals across the Commonwealth as amicus curiae before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, urging the court to permit petitioners’ third-party standing on behalf of their patients as their interests were directly aligned. In this case, WLP represents abortion providers in the state and is challenging the Commonwealth’s prohibition on Medicaid funding of abortion on the basis that it violates the Equal Rights Amendment and equal protection provisions of the Pennsylvania Constitution. Duane Morris also represents a group of amici in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. Duane Morris’ brief in that case highlights the intersectional experience of Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) women, particularly in Southern and rural areas, and illustrates the language, immigration, and economic barriers AAPI women already face when seeking to access their constitutional right to reproductive healthcare, and urges the Court to adopt an intersectional lens in considering the importance of achieving reproductive justice and upholding the right to abortion.
In recognition of Duane Morris’ commitment to our Philadelphia community, including local legal aids, agencies, and clients, we are pleased to celebrate the Firm with a 2022 Pro Bono Award.
“I want to stress that in the last year or so, there has been a crisis in pro bono as people have struggled with all of the pandemic-related woes that we know and understand. Duane Morris, however, has not missed a single beat. They have been a true shining light in the darkness as we have scrambled to meet exploding needs as a direct result of the crises in Haiti, Afghanistan and now Ukraine. We are so enormously grateful that Duane Morris’ support has never wavered.” - Cathryn Miller-Wilson, Executive Director of HIAS Pennsylvania
“So many issues come up in a nonprofit like ours, whether it is a pressing issue for a client or a new path for the agency that seems to be filled with both opportunity and peril. What would happen if we did not have access to the pro bono resources at Duane Morris? We could not afford to pay for all of the legal consultations we have brought to Duane Morris. As a result, our clients would not get the kind of legal guidance that helps them make the best decisions for their lives. They would be more fearful, and they would be vulnerable to people taking advantage of them. And for the agency, our fear of the unknown would make us more hesitant to pursue new opportunities. We would not be able to serve our clients or community as well, and we would stunt our ability to grow. Our relationship with Duane Morris’ pro bono attorneys has been transformative for our agency. Each attorney has been generous with their time and expertise and a delight to work with. And each has contributed to helping our clients live self-directed, dignified lives.” – David Chiles, Executive Director of Lutheran Settlement House