We operate our pro bono program as a "big tent" to accommodate the diverse interests of our lawyers and the needs of the communities in which they live and work. Over the years, we have developed areas of significant focus.
About half of Ballard Spahr's pro bono work is done on behalf of nonprofit organizations, serving the poor and advocating for civil rights and other public causes, which turn to us for the full spectrum of legal needs.
Asylum and Immigration
We have successfully represented asylum petitioners from Africa, Asia, and Central America, and recently have undertaken several cases on behalf of unaccompanied minor children seeking special immigrant juvenile status. We represented seven "Lost Boys of the Sudan" in their efforts to obtain permanent residence after fleeing their war-torn homeland. We regularly represent immigrant victims of abuse under the Violence Against Women Act. Lawyers from several offices have participated in the ABA's Immigration Detention Center Standards Project, which involves visits to detention centers to evaluate whether detainees are being afforded their legal rights.
Our lawyers work to secure stable, loving homes for abused and neglected children in collaboration with local agencies such as Philadelphia's Support Center for Child Advocates; Washington, D.C.'s Children's Law Center; CASA; and the Rocky Mountain Children's Law Center. More than 50 lawyers and paralegals across the firm work on behalf of children.
We regularly represent low-income individuals in their efforts to secure or maintain affordable housing. Habitat for Humanity is a longstanding pro bono client; we regularly assist Habitat with an array of legal needs, including legislative reform, land use, contracts, grants, corporate governance, and planned giving. We have represented numerous civic and nonprofit agencies in their efforts to develop affordable housing, including assisting the Housing Authority of New Orleans to draft recovery legislation in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and assisting with the conversion of a Philadelphia convent into a halfway home for women fleeing prostitution.
Lawyers for the Arts
Many of our lawyers represent artists, musicians, and arts groups through Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts programs, providing representation in the areas of intellectual property, contract negotiation, and real estate and tax work. They assist new artists in negotiating recording contracts and helped set up a foundation to rescue an iconic mural on South Street in Philadelphia.
We have taken two statewide redistricting cases, worked with the National Commission on Voting Rights to draft testimony and a report to Congress on racism in voting, developed voting rights manuals for several states, and participate regularly in voter advocacy efforts on hotlines and at the polls. In the last presidential election, more than 140 Ballard lawyers donated more than 3,500 hours to election protection and voter education efforts.
We have long responded when the courts have asked us to provide pro bono representation in death penalty matters. Our lawyers successfully obtained a new sentencing hearing and plea agreement for a capital client in 2002 and, since 2004, have been representing a Philadelphia man in his bid to overturn a conviction based on scientifically discredited arson testimony.