Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher



Pro Bono Rank Firm
(Am Law 200 Rank)
Am Law
Pro Bono Score
Average Pro Bono
Hours Per Lawyer
% of Lawyers
With More Than 20 Hours
Gibson, Dunn (20)


Windsurfer Farrah Hall knew securing a spot on the U.S. Olympic team in 2008 would entail hours of practice and races on both coasts as she prepared for the Olympic trials. But she was at a loss when a hearing by a committee of U.S. Sailing, which oversees windsurfing, emerged as the main factor in whether she would make the trip to Beijing. So Hall turned to lawyers at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. The firm represented Hall, who has struggled to financially support herself while pursuing her Olympic dream, on a pro bono basis. In October 2007 Hall won the last race of the U.S. Olympic Am Law Pro Bono 100women's windsurfing trials, securing the top overall spot and, she thought, a position on the U.S. Olympic team. But hours after the race, a committee of U.S. Sailing, which oversees windsurfing, adjusted the score of another windsurfer involved in a collision during the race, thus making that person the top finisher and the likely representative in Beijing. Hall was not involved in the collision during the race and not given an opportunity to participate in the hearing that stripped her of the top score.

In the weeks following the race, Hall's coach put her in touch with Gibson Dunn San Francisco-based partner Doug Smith, who is an avid sailor. Smith says he agreed to take on Hall's case because "the more I learned the more I became convinced she was not treated fairly." Over the next few months, as many as five Gibson Dunn lawyers worked on the matter, which involved preparing for a hearing before U.S. Sailing officials, who reopened the initial redress process. Hall also sought an arbitration hearing challenging the decision. The crux of Hall's argument was that she was not provided with an equitable hearing when she was first stripped of her top score. The U.S. Sailing committee upheld the prior decision and Hall was not allowed to compete in the Beijing Olympics. The arbitrator sided with the U.S. Sailing decision. In February 2008 Hall's lawyers also filed a complaint with the United States Olympic Committee against U.S. Sailing. Among other things, Hall alleged that U.S. Sailing did not live up to its obligation to provide for "the prompt and equitable resolution of grievances of its members." And while the five-person committee's decision came well after the Olympic games ended it was something of a vindication for Hall. In February 2009 the committee held that U.S. Sailing's protest and redress system violates the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act and USOC bylaws for many of the reasons outlined by Gibson Dunn in Hall's complaint. U.S. Sailing was given six months to reform the process.

—Drew Combs | July 1, 2009

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