A labor counsel in the Washington, D.C., office, Beth Cyr has been deeply involved in pro bono matters throughout her Akin Gump career, and 2011 was no exception. Her largest commitment was advising a legal services organization for victims of domestic violence, Washington Empowered Against Violence (WEAVE), in a labor dispute with its staff attorneys. The matter went to the National Labor Relations Board, where Ms. Cyr was lead counsel in a multiday hearing. WEAVE was just one of 15 pro bono clients that she helped in 2011. Her work has included not just labor and employment advice to nonprofits, such as the KIPP charter schools, but she also found time to help a mother gain custody of her children, a tenant secure a six-figure settlement from his landlord and an immigrant secure permanent residency.
Rex Heinke is co-head of the firm’s Supreme Court and appellate practice and a long-time pro bono practitioner. Among the many and diverse clients with whom he has worked are racial justice research center Race Forward, the Children’s Law Center of Los Angeles, ACLU of Southern California, provider of legal services to low-income individuals Bet Tzedek, California First Amendment Coalition and the Western Center on Law and Poverty. Additionally, Mr. Heinke sits on the boards of Bet Tzedek and Children’s Law Center.
A former federal prosecutor and a litigation partner for nearly 20 years in Akin Gump’s Washington, D.C. office, Mark MacDougall devotes a great deal of his professional time to the pro bono trial representation of indigent defendants facing the death penalty in South Carolina. In collaboration with local circuit public defenders and the State Commission on Indigent Defense, Mr. MacDougall has tried five capital cases to verdict and provided extensive advocacy in several other homicide cases in which prosecutors were persuaded to withdraw the death penalty notice before trial. Most recently, Mr. MacDougall led teams of Akin Gump associates in obtaining life sentences for pro bono clients Earnest Daise (in 2013) and Clarence Jenkins (in 2012) in successive trials in Greenville and Beaufort, South Carolina. Mr. MacDougall’s trial work in opposing the death penalty has been honored by the NAACP (America’s oldest and largest civil rights organization), the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and others.
When the KIPP charter schools in Newark, New Jersey found out that they could get favorable state bond financing by the end of 2011, they turned to their longtime counsel, Kim Ramsey, a corporate partner in the firm’s San Antonio office. But they turned to Ms. Ramsey in early December 2011, leaving her only a few weeks, over the holidays, to complete a transaction that would ordinarily take months. Ms. Ramsey, with assistance from Chris Gores and Allison Miller, managed to do finish the transaction providing KIPP with access to critical financing to allow it to expand its schools in New Jersey.
A partner in the firm’s litigation practice in New York, Mr. Sorkin has devoted significant time to pro bono matters, including obtaining asylum or other relief for four individuals, each of whom have been able to begin new lives here in the United States. Mr. Sorkin contributed substantially to “In Pursuit of Justice,” Human Rights First, May 2008 and “In Pursuit of Justice, 2009 Update and Recent Developments,” Human Rights First, July 2009. In 2009, Mr. Sorkin was named Pro Bono Counsel of the Year by Akin Gump. He has also been recognized by Human Rights First and The Legal Aid Society for his pro bono work.