Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler



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
Patterson Belknap (160)


Call it an interagency game of hot potato. New York City's Administration for Children's Services and New York State's Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities have been fighting in the courts with each other since the early eighties. At dispute: which agency should provide service and housing for disabled New Yorkers as they transition out of the foster care system.

Am Law Pro Bono 100"The finger-pointing has resulted in nothing more than finger-pointing," says Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler partner Lisa Cleary.

Cleary is part of a team of eight Patterson lawyers representing a class of 150 disabled New Yorkers in the latest bureaucratic dispute between ACS and OMRDD.

Alongside pro bono counsel from New York Lawyers for the Public Interest and Lawyers for Children, Patterson lawyers won class certification for their clients in March 2008. After the city appealed, they defended class certification and the class's right to intercede in the case. Patterson junior associate Christopher Strong handled the appeal—his first oral argument—after Cleary put him through three separate moot hearings. "It was difficult, but it was good having the facts on our side," Strong says.

In February an appellate panel handed Patterson and their clients a victory. Judge Marilyn Shafer called Patterson's clients "among the most disadvantaged found in society." She wrote, "Judicial review of these claims should be had now, so that, if it is determined that the system for care of mentally retarded and developmentally disabled persons needs to be corrected, it can be corrected without any unnecessary delay." Discovery in the case is ongoing.

Patterson lawyers worked about 1,380 hours on the case in 2008. They've put in 3,555 hours since the case began.

—Ross Todd | July 1, 2009

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