Akin Gump 2019 Pro Bono Awards Showcase Exceptional Work by Lawyers, Staff

(New York) – On July 17, Akin Gump celebrated the pro bono work performed by lawyers and staff members through its annual Pro Bono Awards. In 2018, the firm devoted more than 100,000 hours of service to its pro bono clients.

The event was hosted by chairperson Kim Koopersmith in New York. Pro bono partner Steven Schulman led the event in Washington, D.C., with participating offices linked via videoconference. Individual offices held their own awards ceremonies before or after the firmwide presentations.

Four offices—Washington, D.C.; New York; Los Angeles; Houston—also held in-house auctions that raised a total of almost $41,000 to benefit, respectively, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs and Dog Tag Inc.; the TEAK Fellowship; Cycle for Survival; and BakerRipley.

The individuals, teams and matters recognized at the firmwide ceremonies were:

International Pro Bono Attorney of the Year: Serena Lee (London) – In 2017, Ms. Lee developed an innovative project advising Sierra Leone’s National Revenue Authority, the nation’s IRS equivalent.  The Authority has limited legal support and was in need of lawyers to advise on a variety of issues.  Ms. Lee has traveled to Sierra Leone to consult with senior officials about new tax legislation and continues to advise the Authority on an ongoing basis.

Office of the Year: Los Angeles – This recognition follows recent local accolades from the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice and the LA Korean American Coalition, both lauding the LA office for its work. Year after year, the office helps a wide range of pro bono clients, including refugees, nonprofit charter schools and domestic violence survivors.

Practice Group of the Year: Public Law and Policy – Last year, the firm’s policy practice saw its pro bono hours rise significantly, as the team worked on a wide range of issues, from fighting to secure funding for research to cure blindness to having a statue of the Ponca Tribe’s Chief Standing Bear placed in the U.S. Capitol.

Transaction/Counseling Team of the Year Award: Awarded to a NY cross-practice team for their dedication to a long-time client. In 2012, our client needed help becoming the legal guardian of his minor half-brother after their parents died in a murder-suicide.  Akin Gump helped him secure guardianship and then began the complex process of administering both parents’ estates. A key goal was to transfer the mortgage on the family home to our client so he could raise his brother there.  However, in 2013, the bank holding the mortgage initiated foreclosure proceedings.  The firm’s trust and estates team moved forward with the mortgage modification, helped by a team of Akin Gump litigators to fight the foreclosure action.  Earlier this year, the bank agreed to the mortgage modification, the foreclosure proceedings were dismissed and the family moved back home.

Litigation Matter Team of the Year: Awarded to a D.C. litigation team who took on a referral from Time’s Up/National Women’s Law Center and successfully defended their client against a defamation claim related to public statements about an alleged sexual assault.

Associate of the Year: Rachel Ramos (Los Angeles) –During the family separation crisis last year, Ms. Ramos represented an indigenous Guatemalan mother and helped reunite her with her daughter after two months apart. This successful representation followed her longstanding work with the women and children detained at the Karnes Detention Center in Texas.

Counsel of the Year: Maka Hutson (Dallas) – Ms. Hutson has long been a leader in the firm’s pro bono immigration practice, helping clients from all over the world secure immigration relief. She also has mentored countless Akin Gump teams on their pro bono immigration matters.

Partner of the Year: Martie Kendrick (D.C.) – Since 2016, Ms. Kendrick has fought to get a childhood lead screening registry established in Washington, D.C. to help combat childhood lead poisoning. After many stakeholder meetings and testimony by her before the D.C. Council’s Committee on Transportation and the Environment, last year, the D.C. Council included funding for the registry in its FY 2019 budget, a tribute to her tenacity and excellent research and lawyering skills (learn more here).

The Diane Streat Award, given to a staff member or team who have made substantial contributions to the pro bono practice: Andrea Rivers (D.C.) – Lauded by attorneys in the firm’s D.C. office for her commitment to her pro bono clients, who include parole applicants and tenants fighting eviction, Ms. Rivers provides “invaluable assistance” to her teams and takes “supreme ownership” of cases.

Pro Bono Hall of Fame 2019: Eliot Raffkind (Dallas) – Mr. Raffkind started at Akin Gump 33 years ago and has been a constant advocate for pro bono work in the Dallas office. His signature issue has been helping children in the foster care system in Dallas.  Over the past two decades, he has served Jonathan’s Place, a community organization in Dallas that supports abused and neglected children by providing emergency shelter, a foster care and adoption program, and residential treatment for young victims of sex abuse. Mr. Raffkind also serves on the board of firm client Capital for Kids, a foundation of investment professionals supporting at-risk children in Dallas.

This work only scratches the surface of Mr. Raffkind’s career-long pro bono commitment.  Since 2003, he has worked on more than 90 pro bono matters, providing leadership and supervision on matters ranging from name changes and divorces to micro-investment and social venture funds.  Countless individuals have been helped by him, and dozens of Akin Gump lawyers have been inspired by his leadership.

Founded in 1945, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP is a leading international law firm with more than 900 lawyers in offices throughout the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

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