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.

Afghan refugee children attend a class at a makeshift school set up in a mosque on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan

The rights of children

Boosting the foundations of children’s rights


4 min read

Supporting children’s rights is a longstanding pillar of our pro bono efforts. These projects from 2021 tackled the legal protection of children at a systemic level through innovative research, collaboration and information sharing. 

Aiding the legal protection of children in the Middle East

Hana, an Iraqi mother of seven children, is stuck in bureaucratic limbo without a birth certificate for her youngest child. Iraqi law requires that Hana register her son’s birth within a year or go to court to do so but, four years after his birth, he still has no legal identity and is unable to cross checkpoints, go to school, or obtain healthcare or any other government entitlements. The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) lawyers helping Hana can’t move forward without a security certificate or death certificate for her husband, who was killed during the conflict in Iraq in 2017 and for whom she can’t obtain those documents. 

Hana’s case is one of many involving children across the Middle East that will benefit from the research our lawyers are doing for the NRC and Save the Children. 

In 2021, White & Case lawyers undertook a comprehensive review of all domestic laws and regulations affecting children in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine, Syria and Yemen. Due to be released in 2022, the report extends the scope of the NRC’s Legal Protection of Children Toolkit, used by lawyers working as part of the NRC’s Information, Counseling and Legal Assistance (ICLA) program. 

“These are complicated jurisdictions with multiple legal systems, government and non-government actors, and different territories and frameworks,” said Martin Clutterbuck, ICLA Regional Advisor at the NRC Middle East Regional Office. “The White & Case team included Arabic speakers with close ties to the countries we reviewed, which contributed enormously to getting good results for a very vulnerable population.”

This research is the first of its kind to be available publicly, and it will bolster casework, litigation, approaches to authorities, advocacy campaigns and political reform work. NRC and Save the Children will also use it to educate and inform diplomats, donors and the international community. The new toolkit will be shared with UN agencies, child protection groups and other stakeholders working in the Middle East. 

“Three organizations with global reach and significant complementary capabilities, coming together to work on a project like this, is quite extraordinary,” said Simon Miller, General Counsel at Save the Children Australia. “The level of effort and capability that White & Case has brought to this has exceeded expectations on all levels.”

In total, 60 lawyers including 15 partners from our offices in Abu Dhabi, Cairo, Doha, Dubai and Riyadh contributed to the research during the second half of 2021.

“We were able to pull together the region-wide team within a week or two,” said Alec Johnson, partner in our Riyadh office. “It was not hard to get volunteers to work on a project that helps the most vulnerable children in such a fundamental way. Further, there was great enthusiasm to leverage our large presence in the Middle East in a way that has meaningful impact across the region.”

The first critical review of child’s rights strategic litigation

It is important that children’s rights be upheld in a way that extends rights for all children, including through strategic litigation.  

Advancing Child Rights Strategic Litigation (ACRiSL) is a three-year global research collaboration bringing together advocacy and academia, including our longstanding pro bono partner Child Rights International Network, to examine how strategic litigation has been used to advance children’s rights and to develop a model of strategic litigation that respects these rights. 

We provided case notes on 80 leading child rights strategic litigation cases, which will form part of a first-of-its-kind public database. Fifty-six lawyers and legal team members from 20 offices were involved, focused in particular on how the cases were brought and the ways in which the strategies deployed were innovative. The bulk of the cases were in English, Spanish and Portuguese, and our lawyers’ language abilities were essential to the work.

“The thoughtful, useful, well-structured case notes provided by White & Case helped make this aspect of the project possible,” said project lead Aoife Nolan, Professor of International Human Rights Law and HRLC Co-Director at the University of Nottingham. “Further, the research work involved a critical engagement with legal practice, and White & Case hasn’t flinched from that.”

“As lawyers, we have a privilege and a duty – especially in these challenging times – to do whatever is in our power and our experience to make the world a better place for the youngest and most vulnerable members of society,” said supervising partner Ingrid Wijnmalen of our Frankfurt office. 

ACRiSL will launch the database in early 2022 for use by lawyers, civil society organizations and a range of other stakeholders. It will provide an invaluable resource for lawyers seeking to incorporate children’s rights in their strategic litigation work. 

Photo by Muhammed Muheisen © Bespoke Reps
Afghan refugee children attend school in Islamabad, Pakistan

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