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.

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

Office highlights

Pro bono matters from each of our offices 


6 min read



Secured a jury victory and an award of more than US$250,000 for a small restaurant owner against his now-former landlord for fraudulent misrepresentation and breach of contract
Providing real estate advice to a number of local nonprofits 
Representing Central American children seeking Special Immigrant Juvenile Status to enable them to remain in the US
Los Angeles  
Helped two LGBTQ asylum-seekers forced to remain in Mexico under the US Migrant Protection Protocols to submit pro se asylum applications and obtain paroled entry so they could seek medical assistance and relocate with family while awaiting their asylum proceedings
Mexico City  
Working with the nonprofit Instituto para las Mujeres en la Migración on a legal challenge to the US-Mexico “Remain in Mexico” policy, under which migrants seeking US asylum at the southern border stay in Mexico until their US cases are called  
Miami highlight


Representing the Innocence Project of Florida, as amicus curiae, in the Supreme Court of Florida, helping to secure the reversal of a death row inmate’s convictions


total pro bono matters in 2021

New York    
Represented 16 clients on their criminal appeals and secured two victories in the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division; served as amicus counsel on another case that resulted in a reversal of the conviction and a new trial  
São Paulo    
Summarized child rights strategic litigation cases for Child Rights International Network and The University of Nottingham  
Silicon Valley  
Representing two women in their U visa applications, a form of immigration relief for crime victims who have suffered mental or physical abuse, and are helpful to law enforcement or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity 
Washington, DC  
Achieved a victory for our client in family court by securing legal and physical custody of her child 



Abu Dhabi
Assisting children’s literacy nonprofit Room to Read in registering as a nonprofit in the United Arab Emirates
General tax advice to The German Children and Youth Foundation 
Providing ongoing legal advice on compliance with applicable personal data protection regulations to Cesta von, o.z., which helps disadvantaged individuals from early childhood through adulthood
Assisting members of Douzan Art and Culture, a Syrian art and culture organization, in establishing an international nonprofit organization in Belgium
Mapped the legal frameworks on the protection of children in several Middle Eastern countries for Save the Children and the Norwegian Refugee Council
Ongoing advice to the Association for the Promotion and Exhibition of Arts in Lebanon (APEAL) relating to the establishment of a new contemporary art museum in Beirut, Lebanon
General corporate advice to nonprofit Hedayah and in connection with the STRIVE Global Program to Counter Violent Extremism
Drafted case notes on child rights strategic litigation cases for Child Rights International Network and The University of Nottingham  
Ongoing corporate, employment and litigation support to ELIM Diakonie, a nonprofit that provides nursing homes, mobile healthcare and social integration projects to the sick, elderly, migrants and asylum-seekers
General corporate legal advice to Médecins Sans Frontières, an international humanitarian medical NGO working in conflict zones and countries affected by endemic diseases
Hamburg highlight


Advice to Stadthaushotel, a barrier-free inclusion hotel in Germany mainly staffed with disabled people, to avoid a potential bankruptcy in an ambitious restructuring case that addressed shareholder, labor and finance issues

Legal research for Save the Children Spain on best practices in Finnish law covering the protection of children from all forms of violence to inform a proposal to the Spanish government as it implements new child protection laws
Assisted Still I Rise, a nonprofit providing education to refugee children globally by establishing international schools that offer an international diploma free of charge, in its assessment of the relevant entity types for its presence in Turkey, and advice on contractual matters


total pro bono matters in 2021

Assistance to Innovation Africa, a nonprofit bringing Israeli solar, water and agricultural resources to rural African villages, in incorporating a South African entity
Corporate advice to Greenspark, a women-founded social enterprise that helps companies take action on climate change, in collaboration with Prime Advocates, an incubator for startups with a social mission
Corporate assistance to Asociación Pupaclown, a Spanish nonprofit providing clown art and entertainment to comfort children in hospitals 
Ongoing legal assistance to Pro Bono Italia, an association of lawyers and law firms devoted to promoting and spreading a culture of pro bono throughout Italy
General corporate and labor law advice to charity Action for Russian Children 
Advised the Kazakhstan Bar Association on legal education initiatives and improvements to the court system
Providing legal advice to NGOs, associations and institutions dedicated to the protection of human rights through referrals from Alliance des Avocats pour les Droits de l’Homme, on which we also serve as members of the board. Work also involves representing vulnerable people before criminal, administrative and civil courts, and often pursuant to protection programs for minors and women
Day-to-day legal and tax advice to Dobrý anděl, a Czech nonprofit focused on helping severely ill children and their families
Provided legal research to Save the Children and the Norwegian Refugee Council on the frameworks for the protection of children in a number of Middle East countries
General corporate and fundraising advice to Save the Children Sweden
Providing advice to the Polish nonprofit Inspiring Girls International Limited on corporate, employment, IP and compliance matters



Provided legal research to ForNGO, a social services organization, for its development of an encyclopedia platform of public interest law in China 
Hong Kong
Collaborating with in-house lawyers at a banking client to provide general corporate legal advice to Habitat for Humanity Hong Kong, a nonprofit working to improve living conditions for families across the Asia-Pacific region
Assisted the United Nations Environment Programme in drafting its biannual Global Environmental Report on the Rule of Law
Melbourne highlight


Successful settlement of a pensioner’s case against her surveyor and builder in a long-running dispute over her poorly constructed home

Researched gender-based violence case law for inclusion in Cornell Law School’s Women and Justice Collection


total pro bono matters in 2021

General corporate advice for NGO China Welfare Institute Kindergarten
With BABSEACLE, a nonprofit promoting access to justice and sustainable development, provided pro bono assistance to the Laos Ministry of Justice, contributing to the transformation of the regulatory framework governing the admission and regulation of private legal practitioners, in order to allow foreign practitioners to practice in Laos
Representing Australian nonprofit Amiculus: The Humble Friend Project in its sponsorship of a small, incorporated group supporting Rohingya women
Representing individuals seeking asylum in Japan through a partnership with Japan Association for Refugees


Photo by Anadolu Agency © Getty Images
Hot-air balloons in the Cappadocia region of Turkey

Service areas