Vance Center Recognizes 7 Firms at 2024 Michael Cooper Celebration of International Pro Bono Excellence

May 2024

On May 7, the Vance Center hosted its ninth annual Celebration of International Pro Bono Excellence, recognizing the pro bono achievements of seven firms.

More than 50 Vance Center staffers, Committee members, representatives of law firms and other members of the Vance Center network gathered at the New York City Bar Association to acknowledge the notable contributions of partner law firms and their pro bono teams to Vance Center projects.

Vance Center Committee Vice Chair for Latin America Antonia Stolper opened the evening with a brief introduction, followed by City Bar President Susan Kohlmann. In her remarks, Kohlmann emphasized the Vance Center’s role as the City Bar’s global representative; its capacity to connect organizations and law firms around the world to engage in pro bono work and expand access to justice; and impressive recent growth in personnel, programs, and impact.

New York City Bar President Susan Kohlmann opened the celebration with a reflection on the Vance Center’s growth and global work. Photo credit: Vance Center

The Human Rights and Access to Justice Program followed Kohlmann with the first law firm recognitions and an introduction by program staff attorney Romina Canessa. Canessa recognized Morrison & Foerster for research into gender-affirming care laws in 44 jurisdictions for client Human Rights Watch. Singapore-based partner Daniel Levison, who acted as lead partner on the project, accepted the recognition on behalf of the firm.  

Canessa then acknowledged White & Case for the firm’s work with Guatemalan NGO Colectivo Artesana on behalf of the children of women incarcerated in Guatemala. In a video, Mexico City-based partner Rafael Llano Oddone spoke about the project’s significance for the team and the firm’s pro bono practice. White & Case Pro Bono Manager Karla Vergara accepted the recognition. 

Next, Susan Kath, the Vance Center’s Associate Executive Director and Environment Program Director, introduced the program and recognized Milbank for the firm’s extensive work on two amicus briefs submitted in climate cases before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, working with multiple UN Special Rapporteurs. Following a video featuring Milbank partner and Vance Center Committee member Viren Mascarenhas and other members of the Milbank team, associate Elisabeth Brennen accepted the recognition on behalf of the firm. 

Vance Center Associate Executive Director Jaime Chávez Alor then presented an overview of the Vance Center’s recently renamed Institutional Integrity Program, and introduced the two firms recognized for their work with the program. Orrick partner Melissa Baal Guidorizzi accepted the recognition for her firm’s work on legal and regulatory mapping for cryptocurrency in El Salvador.   

Linklaters Senior Counsel Jonathan Gafni accepted the program’s second recognition, for the firm’s research on international standards on the evaluation of judges, on behalf of client the Latin American Federation of Judges (FLAM, for its name in Spanish).  

The evening’s final acknowledgments went to two firms for projects under the Vance Center’s Public Interest Reporting Program. Lawyers for Reporters Managing Attorney Kay Murray acknowledged Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom for its work to assist Seattle-based client The Urbanist with establishing a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Skadden Counsel Eric Fischer and associates Andrew O’Gwynn and Joseph Thomas, from the firm’s Trusts & Estates practice, accepted the recognition. 

Vance Center Executive Director Alexander Papachristou introduced the last recognition of the evening, which went to Davis Polk for its work on behalf of client the Prison Journalism Project. Following Papachristou’s introduction, PJP co-founder Shaheen Pasha spoke about the impact of Davis Polk’s contributions, for the organization and the incarcerated writers with whom it works. Head of Corporate & Transactional Pro Bono Jillian Berman accepted the recognition for Davis Polk. 

Vance Center Committee members Antonia Stolper (center left) and Todd Crider (center right) at the 2024 Michael Cooper Celebration of International Pro Bono Excellence.

Since 2023, the annual event has held the name of Michael Cooper, in honor of a founding Vance Center Committee member who, as president of the New York City Bar Association, pioneered the internationalization of pro bono legal service.  

See more photos from the 2024 celebration here.

Law Firm Recognition