The Spectacle Blog

Pro Bono Whose Publico?

By on 1.22.06 | 6:28PM

It’s a curious phenomenon of the law. The bigger the client and the bigger the law firm, the less likely one really knows what the other is doing. Take the business of pro bono publico (for the public’s benefit) representation, or “pro bono” in legal jargon. Lawyers -- yes, even lawyers -- want to perform charitable acts. So many lawyers and many law firms donate a portion of their time every year to represent those who cannot afford representation. They still get paid because their law firms are getting paid for the rest of their work and the work of the lawyers who aren’t doing their pro bono turn.

So the law firms' other clients are picking up the tab for the pro bono work, and many take pride in what their lawyers do. But one wonders what clients would think of their lawyers doing pro bono work for terrorists?

According to a Defense Department source, a long list of some of the nation’s largest law firms -- some who represent Fortune 500 companies and some who represent 9-11 families -- are doing pro bono work for terrorist detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Here’s the list:

Allen & Overy
Baker & MacKenzie

Carleton, Fields

Covington & Burling

Bingham, McCutcheon

Blank Rome

Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore

Burke, McPheeters, Bordner

Burns & Levinson

Cleary, Gottleib Steen

Clifford Chance

Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld

Davis, Wright, Tremaine

Debevoise & Plimpton

Dechert

Dickstein Shapiro

Dorsey & Whitney

Downs, Rachlin & Martin

Esdaile, Barrett & Esdaile

Foley Hoag

Fredrikson & Byron

Freedman, Boyd, Daniels

Fulbright & Jaworski

Garvey, Schubert Barer

Gibbons, Del Deo and Dolan

Holland & Hart

Hunton & Williams

Jenner & Block

Keller & Heckman

Kramer, Levin, Neftalis

Lavin, O’Neal, Ricci

Manatt, Phelps & Phillips

Mayer, Brown, Rowe

McCarter & English

McDade Fogler

Moore & Van Allen

Nixon Peabody

O’Riordan Bethel

Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind

Pepper Hamilton

Perkins Coie

Rodgers, Powers & Schwartz

Ruprecht, Hart & Weeks

Schnader, Harrison, Segal

Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt

Shearman & Sterling

Shook, Hardy Bacon

Simpson, Thatcher & Bartlett

Stradley, Ronon, Stevens

Sullivan & Cromwell

Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan

Venable

Weil, Gotshal & Manges

Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering

 

Most of these law firms are -- or were, before the Graham amendment -- litigating habeas corpus cases seeking the release of Gitmo detainees. That is, they have been working for the release of enemy combatants, trying to extend to them one of the key rights Americans have under the Constitution, and which those detainees wish so fervently to deny us. I wonder how many of the clients of these firms – and among the partners of these firms -- know what their lawyers and partners are doing. And how much they are paying for it.

Pro bono publico? So who’s the publico they’re benefiting?

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