At Fish, we are committed to making pro bono work an integral part of our professional culture, and we strongly encourage all of our legal professionals to take on pro bono matters as a part of their professional lives. We back up this commitment by providing our attorneys with full hours credit for approved pro bono matters, and by assigning a principal-level attorney in each of our U.S. offices with the task of seeking out and publicizing local pro bono opportunities.
In 2018, Fish attorneys donated over 19,000 pro bono hours representing clients in need of legal representation. On average, Fish lawyers spend 54 hours a year on pro bono matters. Our efforts have resulted in significant and meaningful gains for our clients, from vacating the conviction of a man who served 25 years on death row for a crime he did not commit, to securing citizenship for immigrant children fleeing abuse and violence in their home country, to preserving intellectual property rights for income-qualifying artists, inventors, and non-profit organizations. At a time when funding for legal services and access to justice for low-income individuals are at an all-time low, the volunteer work done by Fish’s attorneys is critically important in providing access to justice.
Fish is guided by the Pro Bono Institute’s definition of pro bono legal work, which emphasizes the provision of legal services to persons and non-profit organizations with limited means, and the protection of important civil and public rights.
Recent Pro Bono Examples
Fish & Richardson has a long-standing commitment to the representation of individuals seeking political asylum in the United States. Since 2008, the firm has represented over 60 clients seeking political asylum or special immigrant juvenile status in this country; our clients hail from Bhutan, Congo, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Cameroon, Armenia, Guatemala, Somalia, El Salvador, Peru, and Honduras. Fish works with immigration legal services providers around the country, including the Political Asylum/Immigrant Representation Project (“PAIR”), Kids in Need of Defense (“KIND”), Human Rights First, and many others.
Ten years ago, a young Peruvian man was forced to flee his native country because of repeated physical and emotional abuse based on his sexual orientation and at the hands of his family, classmates, police, and community members. Hospitalized after being severely beaten and left unprotected by police, and after receiving a death threat from his father, the young man fled to the United States, staying with a friend in Washington D.C. He subsequently learned that he was HIV positive, and began receiving treatment. Through a referral from Human Rights First, attorneys from our D.C. office represented this client on his asylum application, which was granted in late 2011. Our representation continued; after being arrested for a misdemeanor traffic violation, we represented him in court, negotiating a plea deal that resulted in a suspended sentence and nine months’ probation. The firm was able to work through the client’s permanent resident application after this arrest. Fish assisted our client in a successful application for permanent residency, which was granted in November 2012.
Fish represented a Greek Orthodox Monastery in Brookline, MA in a copyright infringement suit involving the Monastery’s copyrighted translation of seven ancient religious Greek texts. The suit was for both the infringement of the seven works and for breach of a settlement agreement that resolved a previous copyright infringement lawsuit between the two parties. In 2012, the First Circuit affirmed the District of Massachusetts’ two grants of summary judgment to the Monastery from February and December of 2010, and reiterated what the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act expressly provides: that translated literary texts are copyrightable works. This was a huge victory for our client, reconfirming that the art of translation is a creative process that involves artistic choices. The decision validates the copyrightability of religious works and protects them from infringement. The Archbishop filed a petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court, which Fish opposed in December 2012. The Supreme Court denied the Archbishop’s petition on February 20, 2013. Read more about this case here.
A team of Fish attorneys from our Atlanta office took on the cause of representing a client on his state habeas appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court. Referred by the Georgia Innocence Project in 2008, the central issue in the appeal is ineffective assistance of counsel. Our client’s appointed trial attorney had a troubled history with drug abuse, the Bar, and the law, and has since passed away. His appellate lawyer was also investigated as part of Fish’s case, with allegations that she failed to develop any evidence. One of the Fish team’s main argument is that the evidence shows that our client’s trial attorney, never conveyed the State’s plea offer to our client. A plea offer that our client would have accepted. Before Fish got involved, the case went up to the Georgia Supreme Court and was affirmed in May of 2005, entirely because his appellate counsel had proffered no factual record upon which to consider ruling in our client’s favor. The Fish team conducted a new fact investigation, developed a new case strategy, engaged in discovery, and then conducted a mini-trial before the State Superior Court. After the petition was denied by the Superior Court, the Fish team appealed to the State Supreme Court, filing probable cause briefing to get an opportunity for full briefing and a hearing. In May 2012, our client’s application for certificate of probable cause was granted by the Georgia Supreme Court, an exciting and rare occurrence in Georgia state habeas cases. A hearing was held before the Court in late 2012. After the State Supreme Court denied our petition, the Fish team, undaunted, filed a federal habeas petition on the client’s behalf. In July 2013, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia withheld ruling on the Respondent’s motion to dismiss our petition, and has invited full briefing on the merits.
Pro Bono Partnerships
In order to reach clients in need of pro bono representation and to maximize the impact of our resources, Fish partners with highly regarded public interest and legal services organizations around the country.
We work with legal service providers in the areas of immigration/political asylum, death penalty representation, family law, and prisoners’ rights. We also collaborate with organizations to advise nonprofits, inner-city businesses, entrepreneurs, artists, and inventors, using our unparalleled intellectual property expertise and resources on their behalf.
Click here to view a list of our partners.
We also serve our communities in other ways; our legal staff serves on various non-profit and charity boards nationwide, and our local offices volunteer in myriad ways, such as organizing toy drives for needy families, participating in book drives for soldiers in Afghanistan, and raising money for natural disaster relief.
Pro Bono Contact
Chair of Fish’s Pro Bono Program