Submitted by Pro Bono Institute
The Pro Bono Institute (PBI) has selected Executive Vice President and General Counsel Brad Smith and the Department of Legal and Corporate Affairs at Microsoft Corporation as the recipient of the 2014 Laurie D. Zelon Pro Bono Award for their outstanding commitment to pro bono legal services. The award will be presented at the PBI Annual Conference Reception at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., on March 6.
Led by Smith, Microsoft’s legal department of more than 1,000 legal, business, and corporate professionals in 55 countries has developed and supported numerous pro bono projects and played a major role in addressing the critical legal needs of the most vulnerable.
“We applaud Brad and the legal department at Microsoft for their steadfast commitment and inventive approaches to pro bono legal services,” PBI President and CEO Esther F. Lardent said. “Their unwavering efforts to aid the under-represented are admirable.”
An outstanding initiative has been Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), which Smith co-founded with the U.N. Refugee Agency Special Envoy Angelina Jolie in 2008. KIND finds pro bono attorneys at major law firms, corporations, and law schools to represent children who come to the U.S. without a parent or guardian in search of safety and security. Microsoft attorneys have been key in this effort, volunteering their time and talents through KIND’s Seattle office – formerly Volunteer Advocates for Immigrant Justice (VAIJ) – and representing many of these children in their deportation proceedings.
KIND has been referred more than 5,500 unaccompanied children since its founding and has trained more than 6,000 attorneys to represent these children. KIND has also been successful in advocating for critical changes in U.S. law, policy, and practice to improve the treatment and protection of unaccompanied children and helping children return to Guatemala safely and sustainably through an innovative pilot project.
Smith was inspired to create KIND based on the success of the Seattle-based VAIJ, an initiative he founded a decade ago, with the American Bar Association’s Commission on Immigration that works to help immigrants in the Seattle area. Over the past decade, volunteers with VAIJ, including hundreds of Microsoft legal staff and others, have served thousands of immigrants, both children and adults, and helped hundreds attain lawful immigration status and security from abuse and persecution.
Microsoft’s Department of Legal and Corporate Affairs’ other pro bono work includes drafting disaster relief provisions for global relief organizations and providing transactional legal advice to social entrepreneurs.
“At Microsoft, we believe it is our duty to extend our pro bono services to those who need it most in our communities locally and abroad,” Smith said. “We thank PBI for recognizing our dedication to serving some of the world’s most vulnerable groups.”
To learn more about our award winner, please click here.
Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.
About the Pro Bono Institute
Established in 1996, PBI is a nonprofit organization, located in Washington, D.C., with a mandate to explore and identify new approaches to the poor and disadvantaged unable to secure legal assistance to address critical problems. PBI identifies and develops innovative programs and undertakes rigorous evaluations to ensure that these new approaches are workable and effective. For more information, visit www.probonoinst.org.
Founded in 1996, the Pro Bono Institute (PBI) is a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization. With an unparalleled depth of knowledge, resources and expertise, PBI is the respected resource for all things pro bono. Through our work with law firms, in-house corporate legal departments, and public interest organizations, PBI is the global thought leader in exploring, identifying, evaluating, catalyzing, and taking to scale new approaches to and resources for the provision of legal services to the poor, disadvantaged, and other individuals or groups unable to secure legal assistance to address critical problems. Our rigorous empirical research and analysis; white papers and reports; and advice and support allow us to reach a wide variety of audiences and transform the concept and practice of pro bono. By providing expert consultations and technical assistance, educational programming, and local, national and global pro bono convenings, our goal is to constantly improve and enrich pro bono service. We count among our members, supporters, and partners the most respected law firms and in-house corporate legal departments in the world, as well as the most effective and cutting-edge public interest organizations.
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