2022 Global Citizenship Review

What's inside

Highlights from our Global Pro Bono Practice and Global Citizenship initiative

A message from our Chair

In a year of geopolitical turmoil, environmental disasters and threats to human rights, we leveraged the full spectrum of our capabilities to help address the challenges of our time.

The Firm and our people supported those affected by the war in Ukraine in multiple ways—giving financial support to charities working on the ground, organizing donation drives for emergency relief provisions, providing pro bono advice to refugees and even opening their homes to those escaping the conflict. Elsewhere, we helped refugees from Afghanistan evacuate and resettle in safer countries.

In the wake of natural disasters such as the catastrophic floods in Australia, our lawyers helped families rebuild their homes and lives. We also helped tackle long-term issues, through research on carbon rights and climate change.

In the United States, our lawyers fought for the human rights of prisoners and women: challenging the use of long-term solitary confinement and helping to develop a unique database tracking rapidly changing reproductive healthcare laws in all 50 US states.

A long-term pillar of our pro bono work has been educating and empowering the next generation of legal leaders around the world. We celebrated important milestones in two projects we support: the inaugural graduating class of Bhutan’s first and only law school and the fifth anniversary of the African Centre on Law & Ethics.

This review tells these stories and more about the ways our people donated their time, knowledge and expertise to make a positive impact on their communities and the world in 2022.

Hugh Verrier, Chair

Emergency response

We mobilized to help those escaping crises

Call to action

Responding to those affected by the war in Ukraine

Ukraine response
Brendan Hoffman © Bespoke Reps

In the wake of the storm

Rebuilding houses and lives following the Australia floods

Australia floods
Brendan McCarthy © AAP

Safe passage

Helping refugees fleeing from Afghanistan

gc afghan refugees
American Photo Archive © Alamy Stock Photo

ESG & pro bono

While two distinct areas, ESG and pro bono can overlap and even complement each other

Navigating the difference between ESG and pro bono

A conversation with Jacquelyn MacLennan, EU competition and trade law partner, Global Pro Bono Practice Leader (2015 – 2022) and Business & Human Rights Interest Group member

Navigating the difference between ESG and pro bono
© James Cannon Photography

Access to justice

Highlights include a historic civil rights settlement and work to end solitary confinement

Isolated for life

Protecting prisoners from the harms of long-term solitary confinement

Justice solitary
Michael M. Santiago © Getty Images

Journey to justice

Fighting to obtain just compensation for our client who was wrongfully convicted of murder

Justice Shawn Williams
Holly Pickett © The New York Times/Redux

Advancing human rights

Our work focused on the rights of women and children

A holistic approach

Improving access to justice for children

A holistic approach juvenile defense
Gustavo Oliveira © WBR Photo

The problem with pardons

Providing access to executive clemency for women and other vulnerable groups

Rights vance center pardons
Kansas City Star © Getty Images

Reproductive freedoms

Building on our long history of reproductive rights pro bono work

Rights roe v wade
Ian Waldie © Getty Images

Environmental action

We used our skills to help protect our environment and support climate action

Carbon rights

Identifying legal frameworks for developing countries to address climate change

Carbon rights
Michael Melford © Bespoke

Call of the wild

Free speech victory benefits endangered gray wolves

Call of the wild gray wolves
Stan Tekiela © Getty Images

A sustainable bond

Facilitating green and blue bonds in Africa

Environment ECON Africa Green bonds
Justin Jin © Bespoke

Educating future leaders

Two of our legal education programs come full circle in Bhutan and Ghana

First class

Marking a milestone for Bhutan’s first law school

© JSW Law

An ethical foundation

Supporting the African Centre on Law & Ethics as it trains law students and practitioners from across the continent

Africa legal ethics
David Malan © Getty Images

A truly global pro bono practice

Our work focuses on providing access to justice, serving organizations with a social or environmental mission and promoting the rule of law and good sovereign governance

Pro bono hours and participation

122,152pro bono hours in 2022

100k+ pro bono hours for the sixth consecutive year
100% of our offices and practices do pro bono work

160+ partners and counsel serve as pro bono leaders
900+ pro bono matters in 2022


Pro bono secondments

Deepening client relationships and boosting associates' skills

Pro bono secondments
© European Lawyers in Lesvos

Office highlights

Pro bono matters from each of our offices

Pro bono office highlights
Gabriel Mello © Getty Images

Learn more

For more information about our commitment and activities, please visit our Global Citizenship web pages.


Visuals by Roman De Giuli


Isolated for life

Protecting prisoners from the harms of long-term solitary confinement 


4 min read

Empirical research has repeatedly established that solitary confinement in prisons causes severe psychological and physical harm, ranging from anxiety and depression to paranoia, psychosis, self-harm and suicide. 

White & Case, working with the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, filed a class action lawsuit against the Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC), seeking to end its practice and methods of long-term solitary confinement and to obtain both injunctive relief and compensatory damages for VADOC's victims. 

Our suit alleges that VADOC runs its long-term solitary confinement in ways that violate prisoners' Constitutional rights and causes permanent damage and that, in at least two prisons, VADOC places inmates in solitary confinement for excessive periods. VADOC often deploys solitary confinement for inappropriate reasons, and inmates have very little recourse to appeal their isolation. One named plaintiff was in solitary confinement in VADOC institutions for well over 7,500 days—more than 20 years.

Our lawyers had previously worked on pro bono matters involving individual solitary confinement cases at a VADOC prison. This experience brought the systemic overuse and misuse of solitary confinement to our attention and kick-started our extensive investigations into VADOC's practices ahead of filing our class action complaint. Based on that work, the current lawsuit also outlined VADOC's punitive solitary confinement program and the severe harm it causes inmates. It highlighted a related concern that VADOC uses the program as a way to increase funding allocated to the prisons where it is used. 

VADOC asserted a qualified-immunity defense to its actions, which we successfully defended in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. In summer 2022, a unanimous panel denied qualified immunity to VADOC officials and affirmed a lower court ruling that the incarcerated plaintiffs' allegations against VADOC would constitute violations of clearly established law under the US Constitution. This decision allowed the case to proceed.  

A total of 303 lawyers and legal staff from 15 offices have worked on this case since it began in 2018. Molly Engels, legal assistant in our Washington, DC, office who has helped administer our effort, explains: "The impact of our work is felt not just by our clients, who with our help gain a strong voice in court, but also in the way it raises the systematic issue of long-term solitary confinement within prisons and in society." 

The increased pressure and attention from the case has already contributed to several of our named plaintiffs being released from long-term solitary confinement, even before any verdict on VADOC's system of inmate isolation was reached.  

Michelle Letourneau-Belock, associate in our New York office who played a leading role in the case, adds: "Our clients have suffered severe harm as a result of being subjected to long-term solitary confinement. Lawsuits like this one can lead to changes for individual clients—as we have seen with our clients who have been released from solitary confinement since this lawsuit was filed—and raise awareness of issues that may be addressed systemically, whether through the courts or through other channels such as legislation."

Other access to justice highlights

Pursuing a class action lawsuit to end the use of debtors' prisons in Ferguson, Missouri
In collaboration with ArchCity Defenders and Civil Rights Corps, we filed a class action lawsuit against the City of Ferguson, Missouri, in 2015 for unconstitutionally charging indigent individuals with minor offenses (often traffic violations) and, when they were unable to pay the fines, jailing them in deplorable conditions without due process. Since then, we have overcome every motion the City has filed to dismiss, and the Court recently certified all of our plaintiff classes. We are now preparing for the summary judgment stage, with trial set to commence in November 2024. The team comprises people from various offices and sections.

Ensuring fair access to labor rights for farmworkers In France
Our Paris office won a trial victory and compensation for two foreign-national farmworkers in France, who were wrongly accused by their employer of lying about having COVID-19 and subsequently fired. This led to the loss of their accommodation during a strict lockdown at the height of the pandemic. After a year of advocacy, the labor court ruled in our favor and awarded them both much-needed compensation. The employer has lodged an appeal, and we are also representing the two workers throughout this process.

Helping refugees apply for protected status in Japan
Our Tokyo office, supported in one case by a colleague in Paris, is helping two refugees from African countries navigate the highly restrictive Japanese asylum system. One client was arrested in his country of origin because of his sexual orientation. He managed to escape to avoid harsh treatment and a possible life sentence. The other client is an ex-government officer from an African country who was attacked for preventing wrongdoing by higher-level officials.

Photo by Michael M. Santiago © Getty Images
People gather for a rally to protest the 17th death in police custody in 2022 on Rikers Island at City Hall in New York City, New York. 

Service areas