Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld

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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
31
Akin Gump (31)
79.3
92.4
66.2

 

The leadership of Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), a nonprofit foundation that sets up charter schools around the country, had grown skeptical of pro bono help. Firms volunteering their services often fielded inexperienced associates on KIPP matters, according to KIPP's director of legal & sustainability services, John Kanberg, and the results, he says, tended to be "you get what you pay for." The Am Law Pro Bono 100So when Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, looking for a chance to do some transactional pro bono work, offered to serve as KIPP's pro bono counsel in 2007, Kanberg says he told the firm, "'We have to be able to rely on you.'"

Two years later, Kanberg says the firm hasn't let them down. Akin has assisted KIPP in a range of ways, including securing loans and negotiating mergers and property agreements. The firm has also represented some of KIPP's 66 charter schools in 18 states. Overall, it has donated more than $2 million worth of legal services to the KIPP foundation and schools, says pro bono partner Steven Schulman.

Akin lawyers are currently negotiating for loans on KIPP's behalf to help the charter schools buy land and make renovations. The loans are currently in underwriting, and if approved, they will be available in early fall, says Holly Fuller, a senior counsel at the firm.

KIPP offers a distinctive approach to education for low-performing students, who are often two or three years below grade level when they enroll at one of the charter schools. Students go through an intensive educational program, attending school for over ten hours a day and during the summer. Approximately 90 percent of graduates go to college.

KIPP's results have won many supporters at the firm. Partner C.N. Franklin Reddick III joined and now chairs the KIPP board of trustees. "I have never had a problem staffing KIPP matters—our lawyers love doing it," Schulman says. "It turned out to be a fantastic relationship, both ways."

—Kristen Putch | July 1, 2009

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