Sidley Austin



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
Sidley Austin (5)


Since the 1970s, when Martin Gold started handling immigration cases pro bono for Sidley Austin, the firm's work on political asylum and immigration cases has grown exponentially. Today, New York-based partner Gold leads the firm's Political Asylum and Immigrants Rights Project together with Chicago partner Melville Washburn. The Am Law Pro Bono 100Chicago staff attorney Alexa Warner handles day-to-day management of the group. Since 2006, when the project was established as a firmwide initiative, more than 130 Sidley attorneys have devoted over 28,000 hours advising on asylum cases, Violence Against Women Act self-petitions, and battered-spouse waiver applications. Last year their efforts helped win asylum for 14 clients.

Before 2006, individual cases were generally handled on an office-by-office basis with little firmwide coordination. According to Gold, Sidley opted to establish a formal group in order to increase interest in the work internally, and to enhance the firm's reputation in pro bono. "It's now a larger and more professionally managed project," says Gold. "So it's something that the firm supports rather than attorneys pushing to support it on an individual basis."

A crucial part of the project has also seen Sidley partner with two clients, power utility Exelon and heavy machinery manufacturer Caterpillar Inc. In 2007 attorneys from the firm and the energy company started a quarterly clinic to help refugees obtain lawful permanent resident status. In October 2008 Sidley helped a group of in-house attorneys from Caterpillar Inc. run a clinic advising immigrant victims of domestic violence. Gold says that he first got involved in pro bono immigration work because he's always had an interest in international events, and because he was the only attorney at the firm who knew anything about immigration law. Today, Sidley has a lot more like him.

—Richard Lloyd | July 1, 2009

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