Summer Associates Embrace Firm's Tradition of Community Service

Summer Associates Embrace Firm's Tradition of Community Service


Part of the enduring legacy of WilmerHale is our record of pro bono representation and community service. Through a variety of initiatives, attorneys and staff across the firm work to enhance the quality of life for many in our neighborhoods and around the globe. It is this longstanding commitment that draws many law students to WilmerHale each summer, where they are encouraged to work on pro bono matters and participate in volunteer and charitable events in their areas.

As the summer comes to an end, we want to highlight the efforts of the 2009 summer associate class and thank the participants for their contributions to our communities. Summer associates in Washington DC and Boston took advantage of the firm’s relationship with pro bono client City Year—an international nonprofit organization—and participated in the organization’s service days in their respective cities. In New York, our summer associates participated in the United Way’s Day of Caring, helping community members in need. And across the country, summer associates in Palo Alto participated in the Go For Good event in San Francisco, raising money for the nonprofit Real Options for City Kids (R.O.C.K.), while summer associates in Los Angeles competed in the Fifth Annual Lawyers for Literacy Spelling Bee, organized and hosted by Everybody Wins! Los Angeles.

"It’s important to involve summer classes in philanthropic events,” says Palo Alto Summer Associate Angelique Abed. “It reflects WilmerHale’s values and allows summers to build relationships with each other while participating in fun, non-legal community service events.”

Washington DC: City Year

Coordinated by City Year—an organization with an annual corps of more than 1,200 young participants and practical public policy objectives—on June 13, the DC summer associates, along with other volunteers from the firm, traveled to Barry Farms, an area near the Anacostia section of the city, to restore the historic neighborhood by building flower boxes and painting fences, dumpsters and walls. “Anacostia is known to be one of the most troubled neighborhoods in DC,” says Summer Associate Adriel Cepeda Derieux. “I wanted a chance to help out in an area where it was needed most.”

After the service day, City Year organized a community block party for the residents, community organizations, corporate employees and other volunteers that served throughout the day. Summer Associate Amelia Ashton described the event as a “great way to get out into the DC community” to meet and connect with people outside of the office.

“The activity was well-run, organized and enjoyable, especially the team-based component of the projects,” adds Cepeda Derieux. “It’s much easier painting a fence when you have someone else to talk to.”

(DC Summer Associates Kiely Lewandowski and Jimmy Doan work hard in the DC heat to restore Barry Farms.)

Boston: City Year

Boston-based summer associates spent July 20 in Roxbury, MA, working to restore the Saint Patrick School as part of their local City Year program. The group painted murals and black-top playground games, landscaped the school’s grounds and replaced worn-down classroom furniture with new desks and chairs. “The City Year service event was an amazing experience,” says Summer Associate Eric Wolkoff. “Not only did it give our summer class a great chance to bond, but it was great to be able to make a difference in our community. The best part of the day was seeing the looks on the faces of the students at the Saint Patrick School as they returned to see the four square and hopscotch courts we painted for them. It was truly a rewarding opportunity.”

Summer Associate Alexandra Boudreau agrees. “It was great to see the finished product at the end of the day—I hope the kids enjoy the paintings.”

(Boston Summer Associates Caitlin Swanson, Anna Magazinnik and Alyse Wu tap into their creativity as they paint a mural for the Saint Patrick School.)

New York: United Way Day of Caring

In New York, summer associates continued the service theme by participating in a United Way Day of Caring on July 15. The program provides volunteers the opportunity to help New Yorkers in need through hands-on experiences that truly impact an organization and the community it serves. This year, the summer associates, along with their associate mentors, painted a mural in the playground at the Dunlevy Milbank branch of the Children's Aid Society in Harlem. “It gave WilmerHale the opportunity to do something positive in a neighborhood where kids are always looking for that one shining star and something to be proud of,” says Summer Associate Paula Estrada de Martin.

The Dunlevy Milbank Center runs a full-service summer day camp, after-school programs during the year and a full-service health clinic. “What better way to bond with coworkers than to unleash your creativity on a giant toucan under a waterfall?” says Summer Associate Inga Chernyak. “The walls looked so incredible when we were finished, and the kids seemed thrilled with our colorful results.”

Estrada de Martin also expressed enthusiasm in bringing some color to the neighborhood. “I was able to directly participate in a project that affected one of my neighborhood's schools. It was great running into some of the kids from the neighborhood and seeing them smile.”

(New York Summer Associates Meghan Rohan, Inga Chernyak and Michael Halas add some color to the Dunlevy Milbank Center.)

Palo Alto: R.O.C.K.

On June 26, Palo Alto summer associates spent the afternoon participating in the Go For Good event in San Francisco, raising money for R.O.C.K., which promotes the positive development and long-term success of underprivileged youth through in-school and after-school learning enrichment, sports and fitness, leadership training and outdoor adventure opportunities.

Competing head-to-head with some of the Bay Area’s biggest corporations and law firms in an urban adventure, high-tech scavenger hunt, the WilmerHale summer associates relied on their imagination, sense of humor and athletic ability to complete missions ranging from recreating a classic video game to reciting the introduction of the Gettysburg Address.

“It was a great bonding experience,” says Summer Associate Aaron Nissen. “The tasks required a lot of comic creativity, which encouraged team cohesion.”

Summer Associate Paul Vogelman agrees. “It’s a great way for a firm to give back to the community…and what better way to bond with colleagues while challenging the body and the mind?”

(Palo Alto Summer Associates Aaron Nissen, Paul Vogelman, Scott Shackelford, Angelique Abed and Natalie Morsette take some time for a team-building exercise during the charity scavenger hunt.)

Los Angeles: Everybody Wins! Los Angeles

In Los Angeles, Summer Associates Katie Moran and Derek Gosma, accompanied by Litigation and Securities Associate Matt Benedetto, competed in the Fifth Annual Lawyers for Literacy Spelling Bee on July 8, organized and hosted by Everybody Wins! Los Angeles—an organization whose one-to-one reading programs improve children’s self-confidence, reading abilities and prospects for success. The event raises money to fund the organization’s literacy and mentorship programs serving Los Angeles public schools in low-income populations.

“The spelling bee generated healthy competition for a good cause and showcased WilmerHale's spelling prowess here in Los Angeles,” says Benedetto. “In a year when law firms' philanthropy has decreased across the board, the event demonstrated WilmerHale's commitment to giving back to our community, while at the same time giving us the chance to spell all our favorite words, including ‘pococurante’ and ‘doggerel.’”

The team’s spelling ability led to a tie for first place after an impressive 10 rounds of championship battle. “We may not have brought any glittery banners like some other law firms,” says Moran, “but we did bring our A-game and brought home the gold.”

Adds Gosma: “Based on what I've seen this summer, when WilmerHale says they are committed to public service, they mean it. The LA office’s involvement with several different charitable organizations is indicative of that.”

(LA Summer Associate Derek Gosma and Associate Matt Benedetto take a break from the Lawyers for Literacy Spelling Bee.)

While their volunteer experiences were different, the 2009 summer associates across all offices had one thing in common: they each took part in carrying on WilmerHale’s strong tradition of participation in pro bono and community service efforts.

“Part of what makes WilmerHale, WilmerHale, is how highly we value, collectively and individually, social responsibility,” says Co-Managing Partner Bill Perlstein. “It’s exciting and encouraging to see our next generation of lawyers continuing that legacy with such enthusiasm.”