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Jessica Klein is responsible for our global pro bono program. As head of our pro bono practice, she has developed innovative programs and partnerships with leading nonprofit organizations and champions involvement across the Firm. Here, she discusses the program, starting her career at S&C as a summer associate and then as an associate in our Litigation Group and S&C’s wide variety of pro bono opportunities.

Why did you choose to lead S&C’s pro bono efforts?

Pro bono work has always been very important to me. As an associate, I worked on a tremendous number of exciting cases in our Litigation Group, but my favorite case was one of my pro bono matters. I thought leading S&C’s pro bono practice would be an incredible opportunity to represent pro bono clients on a full-time basis and to actively mentor new lawyers. As part of my role, I supervise associates who are doing their first witness prep or making their first appellate argument. And that’s a thrill.

Tell us about how you incorporated pro bono work into your practice as an associate.

I’ve worked on pro bono cases since law school, and then continued as a summer associate at S&C and throughout my years as a litigation associate. As an associate, I took on a different pro bono matter almost every year. One of my first cases at S&C was a case with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund addressing indigent defense funding in Mississippi. Some other pro bono matters I handled as an associate include litigating prisoner’s rights and immigration cases, representing a Guantánamo Bay detainee who continued to be held after being cleared for release by the U.S. government and handling a hearing for an indigent mother who was wrongfully denied benefits. My first closing argument and first deposition were for pro bono matters. My pro bono work always helped me to develop the skills I wanted to build as a litigator.

Since I’ve taken on this leadership position, I’ve had even more opportunities to learn about different types of pro bono work. For example, I’m counsel to New York’s Permanent Commission on Access to Justice, which works to provide access to counsel to low-income New Yorkers. S&C partner Bob Giuffra and others at the Firm have also been incredibly involved in working to advance this particular initiative.

What are some of the more challenging and rewarding aspects of your role?

A challenge and a benefit of doing so much pro bono work is that you become more involved in your clients’ lives and struggles. The degree to which every client is emotionally invested in his or her case hits home when you do pro bono work for an individual client.

What advice do you give to associates or recent law school graduates who would like to become more involved in pro bono work?

I encourage lawyers to think about what is important to them. Pro bono work is even more meaningful if you feel passionate about the issues you are working on. It could be that those issues resonate with one’s personal history as well. For others, there will be a skill set they are focused on developing and I work with them to supplement their corporate client work with matters that will help hone those abilities.

Overall, it feels really good to take on a pro bono case and provide top-notch representation to someone who might otherwise go unrepresented.

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