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.

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.

Voting rights vs. realities

Breaking down barriers for American voters


3 min read

Many eligible voters are prevented from voting due to barriers that constrain access to the polls.  These barriers can take many forms, including limiting the circumstances allowed for absentee voting, reducing or eliminating early voting times, closing poll locations, and imposing stringent voter identification requirements. Many of these barriers have a disproportionate impact on voters of color, young voters and voters living in areas where access to poll locations is difficult.

The work to ensure that all eligible voters can indeed cast their ballot is increasingly important as new barriers are being erected rapidly. It was a key theme for our lawyers working on multiple matters related to election protection in 2021.

“Fundamentally, we want to ensure that anyone who has the right to vote also has the ability to do so. One way to do that is to work within the existing environment to help voters navigate barriers by providing and facilitating access to information on what they need to do and how to do it,” explained Ting-Ting Kao, counsel in our Washington, DC office, who has spearheaded our work on elections for a number of years.  

While these barriers can affect any eligible voter, they disproportionately affect certain communities. For example, poll closures in non-white neighborhoods in Georgia and other states resulted in long lines. Lines can discourage eligible voters from casting a ballot. Similarly, reductions in early voting opportunities or limitations on absentee voting has made it more difficult for lower-wage workers who are more likely to be unable to leave work during the workday to vote. Strict voter ID requirements also disproportionately affect voters of color, young voters, elderly voters and women in some communities who may face greater difficulty obtaining or keeping up-to-date the requisite ID papers.  

Since the 2020 US Presidential election, many states have erected additional barriers to vote. In Texas, for example, many churches have traditionally facilitated early voting on Sunday for their congregants, helping them accommodate work, family and other commitments. However, as counties cut back on voting hours, particularly on Sunday, this option is available to fewer voters.

Working with The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, 31 of our lawyers and legal team members from five offices helped update voting information on the 866ourvote.org website. Following significant changes in election administration since November 2020, the website needed to be updated to reflect new registration deadlines, voting hours and required documentation. Some of our lawyers also worked shifts on the non-partisan hotline Election Protection (866-Our-Vote), which the Lawyers’ Committee operates, to directly answer questions from voters.  

Our lawyers worked on a similar project with VoteRiders. Twelve White & Case lawyers joined lawyers from four other firms tasked with contacting Secretaries of State or Boards of Election for all 50 states plus the District of Columbia. The goal was to clarify what constituted a problem with a voter’s registration, how it could be remedied and in what timeframe. We took on 11 jurisdictions, collating the relevant information for VoteRiders. 

On another project, associate Hannah Rubashkin worked with the nonprofit Spread the Vote in Detroit, Michigan. Spread the Vote helps voters obtain the documentation they need to vote and access social services. Many voters use a driver’s license as their ID for voting. However, many voters who have had their license suspended, often for relatively minor infractions, are not able to use their license to vote. For those people, and others who struggle with the expense or difficulty of reinstating their license, there are high barriers to voting. Hannah helped Spread the Vote with research to streamline the license restoration process for its clients, including ways to reduce the associated restoration fees. She also created a letter-of-support template that Spread the Vote can personalize for their clients and submit to court to support them during the license restoration process.

Photo by Jose Luis Magana © Associated Press
Voting rights activists during a rally at Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, DC

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