2021 GC Review

2021 Global Citizenship Review

What's inside

Highlights from our Global Pro Bono Practice and volunteering activities

A message from our Chair

Hugh Verrier

Hugh Verrier

Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2021 we worked with many of the world’s leading non-governmental organizations to help address a wide range of environmental and social challenges. Our capabilities and global network give us the opportunity and responsibility to do pro bono work that only a firm like ours can undertake.

Research by our lawyers on environmental law in each of the 193 UN Member States will inform the United Nations Environment Programme’s 2022 Environmental Rule of Law Report. We also assisted Conservation International on an innovative way to generate carbon credits through improved forest management across a large area of the Amazon forest.

Two major court victories in 2021 helped advance the rights of children. In a victory at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, our lawyers helped win justice for the families of children killed in a fire at a juvenile detention center and improve conditions for all detainees. Our lawyers also helped win a US$4.2 billion pre-trial settlement with New York State to honor its commitment to phase in full funding for all school districts in the state. 

This review reports on our pro bono work on these and other issues, such as balancing human rights while countering terrorism, protecting the rights of the media, protesters and police during protests, and helping refugees navigate complex legal processes.

Progress and setbacks exist in tandem in worldwide efforts to protect both people and planet. Through our Global Pro Bono Practice, we seek to do our part as lawyers to address the challenges of our time.

Hugh Verrier, Chair

Environmental stewardship

Our pro bono work continued to support important environmental advances

The role of law in protecting the environment

Our research on 193 countries informs the UNEP 2022 Environmental Rule of Law Report

Two walruses seen in profile sitting with their backs against each other on ice floating off the coast of Norway.
Andy Mann © Bespoke Reps

Carbon credits at scale

Structuring sustainable forestry projects to reduce emissions and drive investment

View from the base of the forest floor of foliage, large intertwining tree trunks and a glimpse of sky in the Amazon forest in the Madidi National Park, Bolivia.
Toniflap © Adobestock

Advancing human rights

Highlights include a major education funding victory and advice on balancing human rights while countering terrorism

Immigration navigation

Pursuing justice for immigrants in the UK

Family portraits hung on a wall in a Jamaican home in London in pastel frames with distinctive flower designs like those profiled by photographer Jim Grover in his 2018 exhibit "Windrush: Portrait of a Generation."
© Jim Grover

Balancing security and human rights 

Informing a response to the EU by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights while Countering Terrorism 

A close-up of hands holding a mobile phone with the screen displaying the image of a fingerprint as the person uploads their biometric data in the form of their fingerprint.
Jason Lee © Reuters

The rights of children

Boosting the foundations of children’s rights

Afghan refugee girls in colorful headscarves seen from above as they kneel on blankets holding small personal chalk tablets while attending school in Islamabad, Pakistan.
Muhammed Muheisen © Bespoke Reps

Funding matters

A landmark US$4.2 billion settlement on education funding in New York State

Close-up of the hands and arms of two young elementary school students who are lying together on the floor and reading a book that is on the floor in front of them.
FatCamera © Getty Images

Voting rights vs. realities

Breaking down barriers for American voters

Voting rights activists during a rally at Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, DC hold up large individual orange letters emblazoned with light bulbs that spell out the words Freedom to Vote.
Jose Luis Magana © Associated Press

Justice system reform

Our lawyers worked on a wide range of issues, including protections during protests and compensation for victims

Protected protest

Legal analysis to protect the rights of media, protesters and law enforcement in the US, Africa and Latin America

A journalist holding a TV camera on his right shoulder faces a police officer seen from behind while a protest is going on in the back.  The journalist is reminding the officer that the press are considered "essential workers" in regard to curfews related to protests.
Wong Maye-E © Associated Press

A 15-year journey for justice

Victory at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for victims’ families and detained children

The white, arched paneled ceiling of the Hall of Heroes at the headquarters of the Organization of American States lined with the flags of the Member States.
Juan Manuel Herrera © OAS/OEA

Creating competition

Bringing the Jessup alive online in 2021

Jessup competition
© White & Case

About pro bono

We are one of the world’s largest providers of pro bono legal services

Pro bono hours and participation

113,110 pro bono hours in 2021

100k+ pro bono hours for the 5th consecutive year
100% of our offices and practices do pro bono work

170 partners and counsel serve as pro bono leaders
50+ associates and legal staff serve as pro bono champions


Office highlights

Pro bono matters from each of our offices

Colorfully striped hot-air balloons float over snow-covered rock formations called fairy chimneys in the Cappadocia region of Turkey.
Anadolu Agency © Getty Images

Learn more

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

View from the base of the forest floor of foliage, large intertwining tree trunks and a glimpse of sky in the Amazon forest in the Madidi National Park, Bolivia.

Carbon credits at scale

Structuring sustainable forestry projects to reduce emissions and drive investment


3 min read

Conservation International, a leading NGO working on carbon credit transactions, is no stranger to finding ways to make these projects both successful and impactful. An innovative and ambitious undertaking to incentivize and implement reduced-impact logging and harvesting practices across a large area of the Amazon rainforest aims to generate carbon credits by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

One carbon credit is typically equal to one metric ton of carbon dioxide (or an equivalent measurement of another greenhouse gas) that is prevented from being emitted. Ultimately the goal is huge financial, social, ecological and climate change mitigation impacts. Six lawyers in our New York and Singapore offices are working with Conservation International on this complex project. 

“The more economically and financially sound we can make this project, the more attractive it will be for international private investors, and the more we will see mainstream global financing interest in climate finance structures. The success of this project will accelerate and broaden the sources we can approach in the future and, in turn, deliver long term positive ecological, climate and social impacts,” said Romas Garbaliauskas, Senior Director, Conservation Finance at Conservation International. 

The potential impacts from a project like this are immense because they can help drive the market for forestry practices that reduce or avoid greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate climate change, among other benefits.

The potential impacts from a project like this can help drive the market for forestry practices that reduce or avoid greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate climate change, among other benefits. For the South American country involved in the project, the ability to attract significant international investment via climate mitigation projects is advantageous and demonstrates a genuine ability to monetize the benefits that these forests provide while maintaining their ecological integrity and biodiversity in the long-term. 

In addition, as a significant portion of the income from carbon credits is returned to local communities, these communities are expected to see tangible benefits, including increased revenue streams via equitable benefit sharing. As part of the funding mechanism, local authorities are given significant oversight and can also improve their ability to enforce existing regulatory requirements. Projects of this sort also offer significant new economic activities such as eco-tourism and the training and deployment of individuals to support monitoring and enforcement, all of which can lead to increased prosperity for local communities. 

The legal process involved in establishing the project is challenging, involving multiple moving parts that need to be solved before the transaction can be completed. For example, concession agreements with the government for carbon rights need to be finalized, as do agreements with other stakeholders to implement activities that result in the generation of the credits. 

“Transactions like this, aimed at supporting greenhouse gas sequestration or emissions reduction, can help mitigate climate change,” explained New York partner Seth Kerschner. “They are also complex, multijurisdictional and have unique legal challenges—allowing our lawyers to apply their specific skillsets to making this happen.” 

For Conservation International, this is an evolution of its existing work on carbon credit transactions. It is innovative in its approach because, unlike other projects, it is not focused on avoiding deforestation, but rather on implementing forestry and logging practices that support reduced greenhouse gas emissions and generate carbon credits. 

This new approach offers a blueprint for a new way of thinking about climate change and forestry, balancing the needs of the environment and communities.  Ideally, the ecological benefits of protecting existing forests and reducing greenhouse gas emissions can be replicated around the world. This is particularly important given the limited number of large, intact forests remaining on the planet.

Photo Toniflap © Adobestock
Amazon forest in the Madidi National Park, Bolivia