Bryan Cave

Pro Bono

Bryan Cave strongly encourages all of our lawyers to engage in pro bono work. These matters are treated with the same care as any other we take on, and the service provided to our pro bono clients is the same quality delivered to all firm clients. Our priority is to offer legal services benefiting persons and organizations of limited means, and to advocate for civil rights, human rights, civil liberties and public rights. We want the firm’s pro bono program to benefit our communities, enrich the professional lives of lawyers and staff and establish Bryan Cave as preeminent in providing pro bono services. Regardless of professional prominence or workload, pro bono work is a professional responsibility and can be one of the most rewarding experiences in the life of a lawyer.
 
Bryan Cave is a charter signatory to the Pro Bono Institute's Law Firm Pro Bono ChallengeSM, a unique global aspirational pro bono standard. Developed by law firm leaders and corporate general counsel, the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge articulates a single, unitary standard for the world's largest law firms. Charter signatories acknowledge their institutional, firmwide commitment to provide pro bono legal services to low income and disadvantaged individuals and families and non-profit groups.

Bryan Cave’s firmwide policy and program, instituted in 2006, encourages everyone to build on our tradition of pro bono work and community service. We give full billable credit to associates and counsel for all pro bono hours, and have established a committee of partners and a group of local office coordinators who continue to look for exciting and challenging opportunities for pro bono work, focusing on serving clients of limited means.

The pro bono work done at Bryan Cave reflects the diverse and passionate interests of our lawyers. Our work includes civil rights and public rights law, asylum cases, child abduction matters, family law, health law, real estate issues, death penalty and other criminal cases, immigration issues, counseling charitable organizations and administration of justice. Referrals from local legal services agencies and work for non-profit organizations make up much of Bryan Cave’s pro bono time.

Select Pro Bono Matters

Bryan Cave has numerous pro bono projects of which to be proud. Some recent highlights of our work include:

Road to Marriage Equality: Firm Files Amicus Brief in Four Landmark Cases
The firm, on behalf of the Family Equality Council, COLAGE and Kentucky youth Kinsey Morrison, recently filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of challenges to marriage bans for same-sex couples in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. The court heard oral argument April 28 and a decision is expected later this summer. Katherine Keating and the Bryan Cave team of Tracy Talbot, Robert Esposito, Berrie Goldman and William Hibsher authored the “Voices of the Children” amicus brief, which highlights the stories of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth and of the children of same-sex couples impacted by legal restrictions on marriage. You can read the full brief Family Equality Council Amicus Brief.

In 2014, the firm filed amicus briefs on behalf of Family Equality Council in 12 cases on appeal to federal circuits challenging state laws restricting marriage for same-sex couples. Every circuit court opinion has addressed harm to the children of same-sex couples who cannot marry. In oral arguments before the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Richard Posner asked the government’s lawyer if he had read the brief of Family Equality Council and suggested he do so. In its subsequent decision, the 7th Circuit wrote that the cases are “formally … about discrimination” against members of the LGBT community, “[b]ut at a deeper level … they are about the welfare of American children.”

Client Released from State Psychiatric Hospitals
Two St. Louis attorneys represented Alonzo Martin on a pro bono basis after he was committed to state psychiatric hospitals following an altercation at a barbershop where he was accused of trying to run people over with his car. Over his objections that he was innocent, Martin was forced to plead not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. After taking on his case, our team realized that Martin was highly intelligent and successfully argued his insanity plea was incorrect because the court and the original attorneys could not produce a document he was required to sign waiving all other defenses. Once the plea was vacated and the court had determined that Martin was fit to stand trial, the state again pressed charges against him, including six separate felony charges. Our team worked closely with the St. Louis Public Defender’s Office and, after a thorough investigation of the incident, the state dropped all six felony charges. Seven years after the incident, Martin was released a free man.

Books on the Underground in London
Founder Hollie Belton describes this as “a personal project designed to create a community feeling within London, to inspire reading and to reignite sharing.” Hollie regularly distributes a selection of specially chosen books on tube trains and stations throughout the London Underground network for commuters to pick up, read and take away to enjoy. A Twitter feed explains where the latest releases have been left, and labels attached to the books invite those who find and read them to interact with social media pages. Once a person who has taken a book finishes reading it, that person is expected to return it somewhere on the London Underground network for someone else to enjoy. This project has grown in popularity, regularly attracting book donations from major publishers. It has generated national press and BBC radio coverage, and the idea is now being replicated in other cities worldwide. Lawyers from our London office helped incorporate Books on the Underground into a limited company and continue to handle various legal issues.

Working with the Volunteer Lawyers Program in Phoenix

Protecting Tenants
A lawyer from our Phoenix office completed a long and difficult case through the Maricopa County Volunteer Lawyers Program (VLP), our principal pro bono program for our Phoenix lawyers, that helped a couple recover damages for belongings taken by their former landlord. Our clients were essentially left homeless after being evicted by the landlord. Having no place to go, they left their belongings overnight at the rental property only to discover the next day that the landlord had taken their jacuzzi and installed it in his front yard and that the rest of their property – including tools they relied on to earn a living – had disappeared. The case involved many twists and turns, including the death of one of our clients and the post-judgment death of the defendant, but ultimately we were able to recover more than $8,000 in damages for our clients as well as $4,000 in attorneys’ fees from the defendant’s estate.

Guardianship and Adoption Proceedings
Our Phoenix office recently represented a man seeking guardianship of his girlfriend’s grandson – the mother was not capable of and unwilling to regularly care for the child. After submitting fingerprints as required by state law, the judge at the hearing granted the guardianship without opposition. The judge and the client each separately expressed sincere gratitude to our firm for accepting the case, which was referred by the VLP, and seeing it through to conclusion.
Phoenix lawyers assisted a client, referred to Bryan Cave by the VLP, with the adoption of her special needs four-year-old grandchild. The matter involved first terminating the biological parents’ parental rights—a process that became more time consuming and complicated than expected due to the biological mother’s incarceration and both parents’ initial refusal to consent to the adoption—and then representing the client in the adoption proceeding. We succeeding in terminating the biological parents’ parental rights and obtaining an order from the court granting the adoption.

Hong Kong Faith in Love Foundation
Our Hong Kong office acts as general corporate counsel for Faith in Love Foundation, a registered charitable organization in Hong Kong. The foundation supports the alleviation of poverty, encourages volunteerism and promotes art as a medium of connection and expression. We advise the foundation on matters ranging from employment agreements to data protection to corporate governance issues. Our projects in 2014 included amending the foundation’s Articles of Association to comply with the amendments to the Companies Ordinance and to maintain the foundation’s s88 charitable status. Our Hong Kong office managing partner is a member of the foundation’s Board of Directors.
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