Manatt, Phelps & Phillips

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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
34
Manatt, Phelps (106)
73.7
74.4
73.1

 

McCloud, California, is a small town near the Oregon border—an out-of-the-way place for a years-long battle with a global conglomerate. But that’s what it became after town officials signed a deal with Nestle Waters North America in 2003 that allowed the company to bottle 520 million gallons of spring water from the nearby McCloud River watershed for 50 years. The plan also called for the The Am Law Pro Bono 100company to construct a one million–square foot bottling facility on the site of a former lumber mill.

From the very beginning, environmentalists and some town residents attacked the deal as one-sided in favor of Nestle and detrimental to the environment. (For instance, they contended that Nestle, which intended to market the water under its Arrowhead brand, would pay $115 a day for water with an annual retail value of $2 billion.) California Trout, an organization dedicated to preserving fishing areas, led a coalition of groups that opposed Nestle’s plans. “Our strategy involved telling Nestle we need to know more about the spring they are tapping into,” says Curtis Knight, California Trout’s program manager for the Mount Shasta area.

In February 2008, San Francisco–based Manatt, Phelps & Phillips lawyers Andrew Bassak and Stephen Mayne joined the fight, representing California Trout and the McCloud Watershed Council, a local organization that also opposed the bottling plant, on a pro bono basis. “We evaluated the contract between Nestle and the McCloud Community Services District for avenues of attack, which included looking at public meeting issues, water-rights issues and CEQA (California Environment Quality Act) issues,” says Bassak. “We also became involved in overall strategic planning for the coalition.” In total as many as five Manatt lawyers in four offices were involved in the representation, which never actually culminated in litigation. Nestle first decided to downscale its project, but ultimately canceled the project before anything was built.

 

—Drew Combs | July 1, 2009

For another Manatt, Phelps & Phillips pro bono project, the Holocaust Survivors Justice Network, the biggest challenge is time. The Justice Network attempts to secure reparations for Holocaust survivors through the German Ghetto Work Payment Program. To obtain the reparations, survivors must prove they lived and worked in a German-controlled ghetto during World War II. But for survivors entering the final stages of their lives, “the memories are difficult and the memories fade,” says Crisitin Zeisler, Manatt’s director of pro bono activities.

Manatt launched the Justice Network in 2008 through its partnership with Bet Tzedek, a Los Angeles-based legal provider that links the network with survivor communities. More than 90 Manatt attorneys have donated over 3,400 hours of legal services to the network. One hundred firms and corporations have joined the network’s cause, expanding its services to 30 cities nationwide. The network trains volunteer lawyers to work with survivors and solicit the information needed to complete the eight-page application.

Despite language barriers, buried memories, and the overall sensitivity of the subject, the Justice Network’s volunteers have filed 2,800 applications on behalf of Holocaust survivors, which could garner each survivor €2,000, about $2,800.

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