Blank Rome

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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
93
Blank Rome (87)
42.6
38.3
46.8

 

In April 2008, at Blank Rome's first women's retreat, counsel Cherylle Corpuz, an immigration lawyer, and pro bono director Kathy Ochroch, suggested a new pro bono project: assisting immigrants who were victims of domestic abuse. The idea quickly caught the interest of others at the firm. "It developed its own momentum," Corpuz says. The Am Law Pro Bono 100The resulting program, called Safety in Numbers, helps immigrants, mostly women, escape domestic abuse and gain legal status to stay in the United States without a spouse.

Corpuz came to Blank Rome in 2006 after working for seven years at a Philadelphia nonprofit, the Nationalities Service Center, which tries to protect the legal rights of immigrants and promote public awareness of diversity. <

Safety in Numbers—which began in Blank Rome's Philadelphia office, and has since expanded to the firm's offices in Washington, D.C., and New York City—is designed to take advantage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). In the past, many women who came to the U.S. obtained visas through their husbands. Women who were victims of spousal abuse, however, had to choose between staying with their abusers or losing their legal status in the U.S., Ochroch explains. VAWA now allows immigrant women who are victims of domestic violence to petition for a U-Visa, which grants legal status for up to four years to an immigrant who was a victim of violent crimes. Blank Rome attorneys help women fill out the administrative applications, and represent them in court, if necessary. Ochroch says women who apply for the U-Visa have to prove that they are of good moral character and show evidence of abuse.

Since the program's beginning, more than 20 lawyers have worked on approximately 15 cases. Local nonprofits, such as the Nationalities Center, the Tahirih Justice Center in Washington, D.C., and The Immigrant Women and Children Project of the New York City Bar Association in New York, have referred clients to Blank Rome. According to Ochroch, the firm hopes to expand the program even further in the near future. "This touches the hearts of a lot of people," she says.

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