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

Growth for the planet 

We help Plant-for-the-Planet’s governance keep up with its growth

A close up of hands planting a tiny seedling in soil and straw as part of the Trillion Tree Campaign in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia.
© Santiago Roa/Jaguar Siembra, Natur & Kultur Verein

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.

A close up of hands planting a tiny seedling in soil and straw as part of the Trillion Tree Campaign in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia.

Growth for the planet

We help Plant-for-the-Planet’s governance keep up with its growth


4 min read

Plant-for-the-Planet is a youth-led NGO committed to leading the global forest restoration movement with the goal of restoring one trillion trees by 2030, which could materially support the world’s climate goals. Transparency and trust are key to Plant-for-the-Planet’s success: transparency in reporting on the number of trees planted, how funds are used, and how the organization is structured around the world; and trust among its relationships with individual funders, corporate donors, other nonprofits it partners with, and the wider NGO community. As attention turns to the potential for restoration as a climate crisis intervention—this is the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration—Plant-for-the-Planet is at a singular moment in its development.   

With its global secretariat in Germany, Plant-for-the-Planet started in 2007 when nine-year-old Felix Finkbeiner announced to his classmates his goal for children to plant a million trees in every country. By 2011, Felix’s goal had increased to humanity planting a trillion trees across the globe, and this time he was addressing the United Nations. Today, Felix is Plant-for-the-Planet’s chairperson, and its main restoration project is on the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. This project began in 2015, and already more than six million trees have been planted. The initiative has also trained and empowered more than 90,000 young Climate Justice Ambassadors in 75 countries.

We have provided pro bono legal services to Plant-for-the-Planet since 2012. Our recent efforts have focused on helping the NGO shift at a structural level from its family-oriented start-up origin, which was unable to keep pace with Plant-for-the-Planet’s rapid growth, to a state-of-the-art organization. Another priority has been navigating the processes to found legal entities in new countries to make it as easy as possible for donors to support the global restoration movement. Other activities include tax planning, legal health checks, and support with trademark and payment disputes.

Our pro bono work for Plant-for-the-Planet has spanned eight countries across the Americas, Asia-Pacific and Europe. Patrick Beggan, international manager at Plant-for-the-Planet, explained that our combination of expertise, knowledge, connections and relationships across multiple jurisdictions is essential: “Alongside their professionalism, which constantly astonishes us, White & Case’s lawyers have the patience and understanding to work with the dynamism and passion of Plant-for-the-Planet,” says Beggan. “They are helping us move from doing our best, to being the best at what we do.”

In 2021, our Mexico City, Paris and Hamburg offices have worked with Plant-for-the-Planet on a range of matters, while teams in Finland, Indonesia and South Korea are working on setting up legal entities in their respective countries.

Updating the Mexican legal structure

Since we helped set up the structure of Plant-for-the-Planet’s Mexican chapter in 2012, the entity has expanded to include a restoration ecology research operation, in conjunction with ETH Zurich and Imperial College London, and an ambitious forest restoration effort that employs more than 120 seasonal and permanent employees. The research effort seeks to improve the design and implementation of future forest landscape projects by Plant-for-the-Planet and others. Further, to support its commitment to plant 100 million trees in Mexico by 2030, Plant-for-the-Planet needs to comply with specific local land rights regulations. To help navigate this important next stage of growth, White & Case counsel Eric Quiles undertook a review and update of the governing documents of the Plant-for-the-Planet Mexican legal organization. It was important that the relationship between the entities in Mexico and Germany was tightened to ensure increased transparency and trust around the organization’s work in Mexico. Our work will help Plant-for-the-Planet establish approval processes, improve policies and create committee oversight.

Setting up a legal entity in France

Local legal entities are important to build trust and confidence with Plant-for-the-Planet’s donors in the country. At the start of 2021, Alexandre Ippolito, a partner in our Paris office, and Paris associate Tazio Jaegle advised Plant-for-the-Planet on its options when setting up a nonprofit entity in France, along with the tax and reputational implications of each. We are now in the process of establishing an endowment fund in France. In addition, Alexandre, who has a personal commitment to forest preservation, has introduced Plant-for-the-Planet to some of the leading forest preservation organizations in France.

Trademark dispute in Germany

Also in 2021, we assisted Plant-for-the-Planet to successfully resolve a trademark conflict related to its “Tree-Shirt” logo. Hamburg partner Markus Mette, counsel Corinne Hauss-Löhde and law clerk Wiebke Femerling helped the NGO protect its trademark, ensuring its clear message could continue to be delivered uncompromised. 

Beyond supporting Plant-for-the-Planet’s organizational goals, enabling it to have first-rate governance and compliance structures in place as it continues its journey is an important way to support the broader global restoration movement. 

Photo by Santiago Roa/Jaguar Siembra, Natur & Kultur Verein
A volunteer planting a tree as part of the Trillion Tree Campaign in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia