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Pro Bono Perspectives: Best Practices for Matters Serving the Public Good, Wherever You Work

(196 reviews)

Produced on February 25, 2017

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Course Information

Time 1h 15m
Difficulty Intermediate
Topics covered in this course: Litigation Bridge the Gap

Course Description

Pro bono work is an important part of any attorney’s practice, whether you work at a large commercial law firm, a smaller private practice, or a non-profit organization. In any of these environments, pro bono practice presents unique challenges and issues that attorneys may not face elsewhere. For example, attorneys taking on a “direct services” pro bono case may find themselves needing to become quickly familiar with a specialized practice area or a specialized court in which they normally do not appear.

In impact litigation, attorneys may need to consider conflicts between an individual client’s interests and the greater public good that a case attempts to serve. In cases by smaller firms, an attorney may need to consider the line between pro bono and “low bono” services. And, in any pro bono matter, there may be unique challenges with record-keeping and engagement matters, such as maintaining consistent contact when the client is not being billed for your work.

Legal sources like case law and ethical rules provide useful guidance to attorneys facing these challenges. The experiences of attorneys who have a depth of knowledge about this work are also important to attorneys engaging in a new type of pro bono work for the first time – as well as for those who are more experienced but may have access to the same resources or set of experiences.

This course, moderated by Jenner & Block Pro Bono Committee Co-Chair Michael W. Ross – and featuring speakers from New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, Brooklyn Defender Services, and the law firm Mandel Bhandari LLP – explores practice issues in pro bono matters from a variety of angles and offers practical, best practices advice on managing a pro bono matter.

Learning Objectives: 
  1. Identify types of pro bono work and the logistics of working such cases
  2. Identify common issues facing attorneys working each type of pro bono case
  3. Understand legal authority relevant to the management of pro bono matters
  4. Provide practical guidance to successfully manage pro bono cases in a variety of contexts

This course originally appeared as a part of our February 2017 Bridge the Gap Event.

Credit Information

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Evan Mandel

MandelBhandari LLP

Evan Mandel is a co-founding member of Mandel Bhandari LLP, a commercial litigation firm that focuses on disputes between $500,000 and $5,000,000. The firm's clients range from Fortune 500 companies to individuals, and it offers innovative billing solutions, including contingency fee, blended fee, and success fee arrangements.

Mr. Mandel has represented many types of clients, including major financial institutions, technology companies, pharmaceutical companies, telecommunications providers, media companies, non-profit and government institutions, as well as individuals. He also has worked on a wide variety of cases including antitrust, contract, employment, fraud, intellectual property, legal malpractice, government investigations, and criminal matters.

Prior to co-founding Mandel Bhandari, Mr. Mandel was a litigator at Patterson Belknap Webb &Tyler and a law clerk for The Honorable Nicholas G. Garaufis, United States District Judge for the Eastern District of New York. Mr. Mandel graduated from Harvard Law School, where he was the Training Director of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, and graduated summa cum laude from Duke University.

Gretchen O. Stertz

Jenner & Block LLP

Gretchen O. Stertz is an associate in the Litigation Department at Jenner & Block LLP. Ms. Stertz has litigated a variety of matters in state and federal court, and has also participated in both international and domestic arbitration matters. Her work has included disputes regarding unfair competition, copyright protection and licensing, and contract interpretation. She has also advised clients outside of the litigation context on a wide range of issues concerning intellectual property and contract disputes.

In addition to her commercial practice, Ms. Stertz is committed to pro bono work and maintains a robust docket of immigration, family law, and social justice-related matters. Her pro bono representations have included successfully obtaining Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and asylum for immigration clients through proceedings in state and federal forums in New York, as well as the representation of a parent seeking custody of her child in family court. 

Ms. Stertz also co-wrote an amicus brief to the Supreme Court of the United States in the matter of Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt, in which several abortion clinics and physicians successfully challenged improper restrictions the State of Texas sought to impose on health clinics offering pregnancy termination services.

Ms. Stertz joined Jenner & Block after graduating from Columbia Law School in 2014, where she was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar and the Executive Editor of the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law. Before that, she completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan, obtaining a Bachelor of Arts with a triple concentration in Linguistics, Spanish, and Political Science and earning High Distinction honors.

Kathrine Russell

Brooklyn Defender Services

Kathrine Russell is a Team Leader in the Immigrant Youth & Communities Project at Brooklyn Defender Services. Ms. Russell joined BDS in July 2014 to lead BDS’s Immigrant Youth Project, now the Immigrant Youth and Communities Project. 

BDS’s Immigrant Youth and Communities Project represents Brooklyn residents seeking a wide range of immigration benefits such as citizenship, lawful permanent residence, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, special trafficking and victims’ visas, VAWA, TPS, and DACA. Ms. Russell also represents clients in their defense against deportation in non-detained deportation proceedings.

Prior to joining BDS, Ms. Russell spent two years as Pro Bono Coordinating Attorney at the New York office of Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), where she trained and mentored hundreds of attorneys working on cases of children and young people in immigration removal proceedings. Prior to KIND, Ms. Russell spent three years on the U.S.-Mexico border as a children’s attorney at the South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (ProBAR) in Harlingen, TX, where she represented detained and non-detained children and young people in immigration court, applications to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and state court dependency proceedings.

Ms. Russell received her J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law in 2008; after law school, she was an associate at Latham & Watkins in New York, where she worked on a variety of pro bono matters, including several cases of unaccompanied children.

During law school, Ms. Russell was a summer associate at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, a law clerk at Texas Community Building with Attorney Resources (Texas C-BAR), and an intake specialist at Texas RioGrande Legal Aid. Ms. Russell received her B.A. in Latin American Studies from Columbia University in 2005.

Matthew Menendez

Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law

Matthew Menendez is Counsel at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice. Mr. Menendez serves as counsel for the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, where his work focuses on fair and impartial courts. Prior to joining the Brennan Center, he was a litigator at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP in New York City. Mr. Menendez attended New York University School of Law as a Dean’s Scholar and graduated in 2007, having served as notes editor of the NYU Environmental Law Journal

He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and Political Science from Swarthmore College in 1999. After graduating from Swarthmore, he worked in Washington, DC as an aide to Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, where he concentrated on issues including the judiciary, energy, and the environment.

Michael W. Ross

Jenner & Block LLP

Michael W. Ross is a litigation partner in Jenner & Block LLP’s Complex Commercial Litigation and Securities Litigation groups. Mr. Ross has experience representing clients in business disputes across an array of substantive legal areas and industries. His experience includes disputes concerning complex commercial contracts, securities law, antitrust, and intellectual property, and his cases have spanned a range of industries, including financial services, media and manufacturing. Mr. Ross has counseled clients at all stages of the litigation process, from pre-litigation counseling through appeals, as well as arbitration and mediation; he also has significant experience in white collar and investigatory matters. In 2014, Mr. Ross was named a “Rising Star” by the New York Law Journal. In 2015 and 2016, Super Lawyers selected him as a Metro Area “Rising Star.”

Mr. Ross also has an active pro bono practice. For years he has represented clients in immigration matters, and he has successfully obtained relief from removal for numerous clients. His pro bono work has also included civil rights litigation and election law matters. He is co-chair of the firm’s Pro Bono Committee in New York and a member of the Pro Bono Executive Committee.

Before joining Jenner & Block, Mr. Ross served as a law clerk for the Honorable Nicholas G. Garaufis, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, and for the Honorable Julio M. Fuentes, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. He graduated magna cum laude (Order of the Coif) from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where he served on the editorial board of the University of Pennsylvania Law Review. He also holds a degree from the University of Oxford (M.St., 2003), and earned his B.A. cum laude at Yale University in 2002.


Jane S.

I really like the additional material of the Lawyer's Creed and related information-very inspirational.

Gary S.

An impressive panel.

Mary Ellen F.

Very good speakers! Thank you!

Linda R.

All speakers were outstanding, fulfilling everything the lecture title states. Very thorough and experienced lawyers who were easy to learn from.

Caroline P.

I do a lot of probono work as a paralegal. It was interesting to hear what the attorneys had to say about the work they do.

Barbara B.

very good.

Harold L.

Good presentation

William E.

Quite informative

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