Community Partnerships PRO BONO

WilmerHale’s commitment to pro bono and community service stretches back to the earliest days of its two predecessor firms. This commitment is embodied in the work of innovators like Reginald Heber Smith, who is widely considered the father of legal aid in the United States, and John Pickering, who led the effort to establish the Pro Bono Institute’s Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge.

Today the firm continues to honor the legacy of its founders through an innovative community partnership model that brings attorneys and staff together as volunteers, to make a decisive impact on issues facing our local communities. Through a focused philanthropy model, the firm has been able to concentrate its resources and time on a smaller group of organizations, with an eye toward long-term relationships and capacity building. The model includes multi-year financial support, pro bono legal representation, volunteer service and in-kind donations agreed upon by the firm and the participating organizations.

WilmerHale hosts numerous volunteer events in its offices, with firm lawyers and staff coming together to serve the community. For example:

  • Through its Youth and Education Initiative, created in 1997, the firm promotes the academic and personal development of urban youth through strategic partnerships with local youth organizations. Every week, staff and attorneys in Washington DC tutor 30 high school students from the Maya Angelou Public Charter Schools. Each fall, 40 high school seniors attend our College Application Workshops in Boston.
  • Twice each year, attorneys teach middle school students the basics of litigating a trial in preparation for their own mock trial presentations before sitting judges at courthouses in Boston, New York City and Palo Alto.
  • The firm hires eight Boston-area high school students each year as part of our Summer Leadership Institute and works with urban youth in Boston and Washington through Year Up and Urban Alliance.
  • Attorneys and staff participate in food and clothing drives in the cities where the firm’s offices are located, with a particular focus on healthy food for the recipients and on supporting sustainable local agriculture.

Our Community Partnerships

Bread for the City serves 10,000 low-income and homeless people in Washington each month through food and clothing distribution, a medical clinic, a legal clinic and social service programs.

Cathedral High School is an urban, co-educational school in Boston’s South End that serves approximately 270 students who represent a diverse mix of ethnic, economic and faith backgrounds.

Citizen Schools is revolutionizing the way children spend their out-of-school time through challenging, hands-on “apprenticeships” that unite volunteer Citizen Teachers and small groups of children, ages 10 to 14. WilmerHale works with the organization in Boston and Palo Alto.

Discovering Justice: The James D. St. Clair Court Education Project is a non-profit organization in Boston dedicated to civic education and teaching children and adults about the role of the justice system in American democracy.

Hyde Square Task Force serves 1,000 youth ages 6 to 21 from Jamaica Plain, Roxbury and across Boston through leadership development, college preparation, arts and cultural enrichment, youth-led community organizing, and positive community-building events.

Kettering Backpack Program's mission is to fight hunger one student at a time by providing at-risk Kettering school age children with food over the weekend and school breaks when school food programming is unavailable. In Kettering, 42.5% of school age children are on free and reduced lunch programs.

Sanctuary for Families provides domestic violence victims, sex trafficking victims and their children with a range of comprehensive services in New York City. Annually, more than 10,000 domestic violence survivors and their children are reached through direct services. More than 20,000 community members are reached each year through awareness-building initiatives.

See Forever Foundation/Maya Angelou Schools creates learning environments in lower-income Washington communities where teens who have not succeeded in traditional schools can reach their full potential.

WilmerHale’s commitment to pro bono and community service stretches back to the earliest days of its two predecessor firms. This commitment is embodied in the work of innovators like Reginald Heber Smith, who is widely considered the father of legal aid in the United States, and John Pickering, who led the effort to establish the Pro Bono Institute’s Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge.

Today the firm continues to honor the legacy of its founders through an innovative community partnership model that brings attorneys and staff together as volunteers, to make a decisive impact on issues facing our local communities. Through a focused philanthropy model, the firm has been able to concentrate its resources and time on a smaller group of organizations, with an eye toward long-term relationships and capacity building. The model includes multi-year financial support, pro bono legal representation, volunteer service and in-kind donations agreed upon by the firm and the participating organizations.

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Parker, Kimberly A.

Kimberly A. Parker

Co-Chair, Pro Bono and Community Service Committee

+1 202 663 6987 (t)

Regan, John J.

John J. Regan

Co-Chair, Pro Bono and Community Service Committee

+1 617 526 6120 (t)

Herrling, Christopher J.

Christopher J. Herrling

Pro Bono Counsel

+1 202 663 6780 (t)

Bowie, Anne

Anne Bowie

Public Service Manager

+1 617 526 5526 (t)

Pro Bono Efforts

In recent pro bono efforts spanning a diverse range of issues and interests, we:

  • Helped to achieve an important victory to remove barriers in public schools on behalf of Richmond, Virginia's citizens with disabilities. In an important ruling, the Court is requiring that Richmond City Public Schools comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act in order for the city's citizens with disabilities to have full access to services, programs and activities held at school facilities.
  • Successfully aided in representing a class of children throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In a landmark ruling known as Rosie D., the Court found Massachusetts violated federal law in failing to provide children's mental health services to an estimated 15,000 children in and around the Commonwealth.
  • Represented six Bosnian-Algerians, including Lakhdar Boumediene, who have been detained at Guantanamo since 2002. On June 12, 2008, the US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that detainees held in Guantanamo Bay have a constitutional right to challenge their detention in US civilian courts; and on November 20, 2008, a federal court upheld the claim of five Bosnian-Algerian men that the US government had no lawful basis for imprisoning them at Guantanamo Bay, where they have been held for nearly seven years.
  • Successfully contended that the Eighth Amendment forbids the death penalty for persons under the age of 18 in one of the most important death-penalty decisions in recent years, Simmons v. Roper.
  • Helped persuade the US Supreme Court to uphold the constitutionality of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform legislation.
  • Succeeded in defending—in a series of federal lawsuits—the Massachusetts and Texas Interest On Lawyer Trust Account (IOLTA) programs that fund legal services for the poor.
  • Served as counsel to the tenants' association at a HUD-subsidized property in a rapidly gentrifying Washington DC neighborhood and, through a series of complex agreements, enabled the tenants to obtain an ownership interest that allowed them to continue living in the neighborhood.
  • Achieved what The Washington Post described as a “stunning reversal” of a miscarriage of justice in a nationally-reported case—undertaken with co-counsel from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and other firms—in Tulia, Texas, in which multiple defendants, nearly all African-American, were wrongfully convicted and sentenced on drug charges based on the completely uncorroborated testimony of a white undercover agent who was later indicted for perjury. (One of The New York Times "100 Notable Books of 2005," Tulia: Race, Cocaine, and Corruption in a Small Texas Town by Nate Blakeslee tells the sad yet ultimately triumphant story.)
  • Provided research that helped the Human Rights Law Network establish a right to shelter for the millions of homeless in India and a right to treatment and health care for the estimated 5.5 million Indian citizens suffering from AIDS.
  • Assisted World Hope International in creating First Step, a subsidiary which was able to establish a special economic zone (SEZ) in Sierra Leone. The SEZ will increase the quality of goods produced in Sierra Leone as well as enhance the quality of life for those who live there.
  • Advised GALVmed, a non-profit global alliance of public, private and government partners, on developing a strategy that would ensure proper distribution of a cattle vaccine to farmers throughout Africa. This vaccine protects against East Coast Fever, a disease which kills one million cattle each year.
  • Overturned the wrongful conviction of Dewey Bozella, who spent 26 in a New York prison for a murder he did not commit. Bozella is now free and living a life enriched by the graduate degree he pursued during his incarceration.
  • Secured a “Deferred Action” visa for Yirdaw Anteneh, an Ethiopian man who faced deportation after his work visa expired while he was receiving urgent care for his failing liver.
  • Represented the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in arbitration at The Hague’s Peace Palace. Boundary disputes giving rise to ongoing conflict were resolved, leaving peaceful political paths in their place.
  • Obtained a settlement for Community Outreach for Vietnam Era Returnees (COVER) from the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), after the VA failed to reimburse and support COVER for the counseling services provided to Vietnam-era Veterans, imposing severe hardship on COVER and its staff.
  • On behalf of the Coalition for the Homeless and a group of homeless men and women, we—together with Legal Aid co-counsel—succeeded in enforcing a consent decree that obligates the city of New York to provide sufficient shelter, of an adequate standard, to those in need.

Publications & News


November 17, 2014

Firm Co-Sponsors Equal Justice Works Fellowship

WilmerHale joined with firm client Staples to co-sponsor an Equal Justice Works fellowship, which provides the opportunity for lawyers to positively impact vulnerable communities across the United States.

October 7, 2014

Boston Business Journal Again Recognizes WilmerHale As Top Charitable Contributor

The Boston Business Journal again named WilmerHale to its annual list of Top Charitable Contributors, meant to showcase the region's top corporate community contributors by 2013 Massachusetts cash and in-kind contributions. Seventy-three companies were ranked and out of the four law firms listed, WilmerHale was number one.

October 2, 2014

Crain's New York Names WilmerHale Among City's Best Places to Work

The firm's New York office has been named as a Best Place to Work by Crain's New York in its annual survey of the city's employers. WilmerHale is one of only eight law firms on this year's list, which includes a total of 100 winners.

August 11, 2014

WilmerHale Tops Contributions in Record-Breaking Generous Associates Campaign

For the 12th consecutive year, WilmerHale has surpassed the donations of all participating law firms in the Legal Aid Society's Generous Associates Campaign, a fundraiser led by associates at Washington DC law firms.

June 24, 2014

Washington Business Journal Honors WilmerHale with Corporate Philanthropy Award for Third Consecutive Year

For the third consecutive year the Washington Business Journal has named WilmerHale to its top "Corporate Philanthropists" list, honoring the Washington DC metro area's most active and inspirational companies and nonprofits who have made a difference in their communities through both financial and volunteer philanthropic work.

April 15, 2014

WilmerHale and Cathedral High School Come Together to Organize Career Day

WilmerHale organized a biennial morning Career Day for Cathedral High School students on April 10. Professionals from a wide variety of career fields and industries spoke in small group panels across 15 classrooms at the school's South End campus.

December 3, 2013

WilmerHale Honored with "Greater Dayton Workplace Diversity Award"

The Dayton Chamber of Commerce and the National Conference for Community Justice (NCCJ) of Greater Dayton has honored WilmerHale by naming the firm as the recipient of the 2013 "Dayton Workplace Diversity Award."

November 8, 2013

Who’s Who Legal Names WilmerHale a Pro Bono Leading Firm

Who’s Who Legal selected WilmerHale to its 2013 “Pro Bono Leading Firm” list, honoring the firm for committing significant time and resources to strengthen local communities.

October 24, 2013

Firm Lawyers and Staff Receive Above & Beyond Award from Community Partner Sanctuary for Families

On October 23, Sanctuary for Families—the leading provider of services, both legal and non-legal, to survivors of domestic violence, sex trafficking and their children in New York—honored WilmerHale attorneys with the Above & Beyond Award for Excellence in Pro Bono Advocacy.

September 27, 2013

Law360 Names WilmerHale Pro Bono Firm of the Year for Second Consecutive Year

For the second consecutive year, Law360 selected WilmerHale to its "Pro Bono Firms of the Year" list for notable successes.


Our pro bono work and philanthropy have garnered numerous awards and honors, including the following:

  • 2013 - WilmerHale Partner Jack Regan was honored with the Distinguished Service Award from Shelter Legal Services (SLS) for his contributions to achieving SLS's mission of promoting self-sufficiency, financial security and the stability of military veterans and the homeless.
  • 2012 - WilmerHale received the 2012 Pro Bono Publico Award for outstanding service to the Legal Aid Society and its clients for its representation of the Coalition for the Homeless and its partnership with the New York Legal Aid Society.  
  • 2012 - The Boston Business Journal recognized WilmerHale as part of its "Largest Corporate Charitable Contributors in Massachusetts” 2012 list at the publication’s annual Corporate Citizenship Summit.
  • 2012 - WilmerHale Senior Associate Peter Osborn was honored with the Civil Rights Pro Bono Recognition Award from the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice for his work with the Belin Economic Justice Project.
  • 2012 - The Washington Business Journal honored WilmerHale as part of its 2012 Corporate Philanthropy Awards, recognizing the firm as one of the area's Top 10 Law Firms based on annual pro bono hours of service in the DC metro region.
  • 2012 - WilmerHale Senior Associate Omar Khan was selected by the Federal Circuit Bar Association as the recipient of its 2012 Pro Bono Leadership Award for his continued support and dedication to the mission of the Federal Circuit and pro bono services.
  • 2011 - WilmerHale was among 14 law firms to receive the National Legal Aid & Defender Association’s (NLADA) 2011 Beacon of Justice Award. This year, the Beacon of Justice Award—which changes its focus each year—recognized firms that have innovative public-private partnerships that protect equal justice for all through appellate litigation.
  • 2011 - Sanctuary for Families selected WilmerHale Counsel Sarah Pfuhl as a recipient of this year’s Award for Excellence in Pro Bono Advocacy, for her outstanding legal work on behalf of Sanctuary for Families clients.
  • 2011 - WilmerHale received The Child Welfare League of America’s (CWLA) annual National Corporate Advocate of the Year Award. The firm was recognized for providing unsurpassed pro bono service to fight laws that prevent gay, lesbian and unmarried families from providing care and homes to children in need.
  • 2011 - The DC Circuit Judicial Conference awarded WilmerHale for exemplary pro bono service at the eighth annual "40 at 50" Judicial Pro Bono Recognition Breakfast. The firm was one of 30 law firms in 2010 with a Washington, DC office of at least 25 attorneys to achieve a rate of 40 percent of their DC-based lawyers performing 50 or more hours of free legal services for those unable to pay for an attorney.
  • 2011 - The Boston Business Journal named WilmerHale to its list of the “Largest Charitable Contributors in Massachusetts.” The firm ranked third among all eligible Massachusetts companies for in-kind giving, and was the second largest overall contributor among area law firms.
  • 2011 - Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS) presented WilmerHale with its Associates Drive Award for the firm’s support of the organization’s legal representation of domestic violence survivors.
  • 2010 - American Constitution Society, Boston Chapter, recognized WilmerHale with an award for being a leader in pro bono representation on important constitutional rights issues. The firm received this recognition for its representation of the petitioners in Boumediene v. Bush to successfully secure justice for inmates at Guantanamo Bay.
  • 2010 - The American Bar Association's Litigation Section awarded WilmerHale with their John Minor Wisdom Public Service and Professionalism award. The award is presented to individuals and firms who have made "outstanding contributions to the quality of justice in their communities, ensuring that the legal system is open and available to all." Since 2001, only four other firms have received the award.
  • 2010 - WilmerHale was honored with the 2010 Robert B. Fraser Award for Pro Bono Excellence by the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts of Massachusetts, Inc. (VLA). The Fraser Award is given annually by the VLA—which is a program of the Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston—to an individual lawyer and law firm that show a sincere dedication to serving the legal needs of the cultural and artistic communities of Massachusetts.
  • 2010 - WilmerHale's International Arbitration practice was awarded the honor of Pro Bono Team of the Year at The Lawyer Awards 2010 in London for the firm's work on behalf of The Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A).
  • 2010 - WilmerHale received an Outstanding Achievement Award in recognition of the firm’s pro bono efforts from the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.
  • 2010 - WilmerHale was presented with the “Maya Way Award for Community Service,” and recognized as a social justice champion and community partner by the See Forever Foundation, during a fundraiser to support the Maya Angelou schools in Washington DC.
  • 2010 - WilmerHale was honored by City Year for 20 years of service representing City Year as its pro-bono national counsel.
  • 2005-2009 - WilmerHale has consistently ranked in the American Lawyer Pro Bono Scorecard's list of the top firms for pro bono, most recently ranking 9 out of 100 law firms on the 2009 Pro Bono Scorecard.
  • 2003-2009 - Firm recognized in the annual American Lawyer "A-List", a compilation that lists the leading US firms and honors overall excellence, including financial success, commitment to pro bono work, workforce diversity and the training and development of younger lawyers.
  • 2009 -  The Boston Business Journal named WilmerHale to its 2009 list of the "Largest Charitable Contributors in Massachusetts." The firm is the highest ranking law firm on the list, based on 2008 Massachusetts giving.
  • 2009 - The Boston Business Journal named WilmerHale the "Area's Largest Pro Bono Law Firm" on their 2009 list, comprised of 25 local law firms. The rankings were based on the number of pro bono hours worked in Massachusetts in 2008.
  • 2009 - Bread for the City named WilmerHale its 2009 Corporate Partner of the Year, at their Fourth Annual Good Hope Awards celebration in Washington DC. WilmerHale earned this title for the firm’s significant financial and volunteer two-year commitment to Bread for the City in 2008.
  • 2009 - The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (NLCHP) awarded WilmerHale with its 2009 Pro Bono Counsel Award at the McKinney-Vento Awards Dinner in Washington DC.
  • 2008 - WilmerHale Partner Jennifer M. O’Connor was the recipient of the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyer’s “Gideon Champion of Justice” Award. She received this award for her 9 year-long pro bono effort in securing a reversal of client Martin Tankleff’s wrongful conviction for the murders of his parents in 1988.
  • 2008 - Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly named Robert C. Kirsch and Stephen Oleskey “Lawyers of the Year” in 2008 for their work on Boumediene v. Bush, which resulted in five out of six of the firm clients being ordered released by the Supreme Court after being held without trial at Guantanamo Bay Detention Center for more than seven years.
  • 2008 - Cathedral High School recognized WilmerHale for its longstanding and passionate commitment to the students and faculty of Cathedral High School, which includes not only financial support, but investment in the students through volunteer work, mentoring and career engagement.
  • 2007 - The American Bar Association Death Penalty Representation Project honored WilmerHale for its pro bono work representing death row prisoners
  • 2007 - The Boston Business Journal honored WilmerHale with Education Partner of the Year Award
  • 2007 - The Corporate Volunteer Council (CVC) of Greater Boston recognized WilmerHale with its 2007 CVC Award
  • 2007 - The firm was presented with the Beacon of Justice award by the National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA) in recognition of the firm's work on behalf of Guantanamo detainees
  • 2007 - Boston Bar Association honors 12 WilmerHale lawyers for their representation of men imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay
  • 2007 - WilmerHale honored by the D.C. Circuit Judicial Conference for meeting the Conference's pro bono goal of at least 40% of all associates, counsel and partners meeting 50 pro bono hours per year. WilmerHale has met this goal every year since 2003.
  • 2007 - Partner Stephen Oleskey received the American Bar Association’s 2007 Pro Bono Publico Award. The Pro Bono Publico Awards program, presented by the ABA’s Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service, identifies and honors individual lawyers and law firms, government attorney offices, corporate law departments and other institutions in the legal profession that have enhanced the human dignity of others by improving or delivering volunteer legal services to our nation’s underprivileged. Click here to view Mr. Oleskey's award video clip.  
  • 2007 - WilmerHale was the recipient of a pro award from the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys for work done on an amicus brief filed in the Supreme Court in Marrama v. Citizen's Bank of Massachusetts  
  • 2007 - Lawyers Weekly recognizes WilmerHale partner Wendell C. Taylor as one of five “Diversity Heroes” in Massachusetts
  • 2006 - Three WilmerHale lawyers honored by the The Legal Aid Society of New York as recipients of the group’s 2006 Pro Bono Award
  • 2006 - The Boston Bar Association named WilmerHale as the recipient of the highly prestigious Thurgood Marshall Award for extraordinary work in representing low-income clients on a pro bono or reduced fee basis
  • 2006 - The Boston Business Journal placed the firm in the top 15 largest corporate philanthropists in the Commonwealth
  • 2006 - Team of seventh graders mentored by WilmerHale lawyers wins the Ninth Annual Thurgood Marshall Mock Trial Competition
  • 2006 - Recipient of the Massachusetts Bar Association’s 2006 Law Firm Pro Bono Award
  • 2006 - WilmerHale Ranks Near the Top of Vault’s List of Most Prestigious Law Firms for Pro Bono work
  • 2006 - Awarded to receive one of only four 2006 Pro Bono Awards from the National Law Journal  
  • 2005 - Seth Waxman named “Lawyer of the Year” by Lawyers Weekly USA for victory in pivotal death penalty case
  • 2005 - Chris Meade and John Rothermich honored with the Legal Aid Society Pro Bono Award for Outstanding Service given in honor of exceptional pro bono efforts
  • 2005 - Presented with The Pro Bono Institute’s inaugural John H. Pickering Award for extraordinary pro bono culture and exceptional commitment to pro bono legal assistance
  • 2005 - Ranked in the top 10 in The American Lawyer's AmLaw 200 Pro Bono survey
  • 2005 - Top 15 in "Quality of Life" ranking for pro bono work in the Vault Guide to the Top 100 Law Firms (2006 edition)
  • 2004 - Ranked number one and designated "Cream of the Crop" Pro Bono Program among AmLaw 200 firms
  • 2003 - DC Bar Law Firm Pro Bono Award
  • 2003 - Special recognition from the American Bar Association (ABA) for successfully defending the country’s IOLTA programs against Fifth Amendment constitutional challenges
  • 2002 - ABA Distinguished Service Award from the Standing Committee on Legal Assistance for Military Personnel for our participation in the September 11th Pro Bono Legal Relief Project
  • 2002 - Leaders in Philanthropy Award from the Massachusetts Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals
  • 2002 - National Law Journal Pro Bono Award
  • 1998 - ABA Pro Bono Publico Award
  • 1989 - ABA Section of Litigation’s Annual Pro Bono Award