2021 Beacon of Justice Awardees National Announcement

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Release Date: 
Thursday, May 13, 2021

NLADA National Announcement


NLADA Announces 2021 Beacon of Justice Awardees


The National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA) announces the Beacon of Justice Awardees for 2021.  This award is bestowed on law firms for their work to promote equal justice. This year’s awardees were chosen because of their work to address systemic racial disparities in 2020.

Awardees include: Akin Gump, Arent Fox, Baker McKenzie, Crowell & Moring, Debevoise & Plimpton, Dechert, DLA Piper, Epstein Baker Green, Gibson Dunn, Goodwin Procter, Kirkland & Ellis, Kramer Levin  Latham & Watkins, Lowenstein Sandler, Mintz, Morrison & Foerster, O'Melveny & Myers, Sheppard Mullin, Steptoe & Johnson, Stinson, WilmerHale, Wilson Sonsini and Zuckerman Spaeder.

“NLADA is pleased to recognize this year’s winners for their pro bono and other efforts to advance racial equity,” said Jo-Ann Wallace, NLADA president & CEO. “These firms are vital partners in the NLADA community’s endeavor to dismantle racial inequities and injustices. We look forward to our continued collaboration to eliminate systemic racism in our nation. Congratulations on your achievements, and thank you for your commitment to equal justice.”

The Beacon of Justice awardees will be celebrated at the 2021 NLADA Exemplar Virtual Awards Gala on June 9.  NLADA will also recognize this year’s Exemplar Awards honorees, Jim Chosy, Senior Executive Vice President and General Counsel of U.S. Bancorp and Jack Salzwedel, Chair and Chief Executive Officer of American Family Insurance along with 2021 Kutak-Dodds Prize winners, Teresa Enriquez, Executive Chief Assistant for Recruitment and Litigation for the Miami-Dade Public Defender’s Office and Ishmael Jaffree, Pro Bono Attorney with Legal Services Alabama.

See below for quotes from the Beacon of Justice awardees:


“Akin Gump is honored to receive NLADA’s Beacon of Justice award. We remain committed to developing pro bono opportunities and initiatives aimed at the eradication of individual and systemic racism in all of its forms.”

--Steve Schulman, Pro Bono Partner, Akin Gump


"We approach our antiracism work as essential to our Firm. Being recognized for this work is gratifying, and it will inspire us to do more in our Firm, with our public interest and private bar partners, and with our in-house legal colleagues in this important work in the private and public sectors. We are all better when we work together to strive for more, fight for better, and settle for nothing short of equitable access to justice for all."

-- Angela Vigil, Pro Bono Partner and Executive Director of Pro Bono Practice, Baker McKenzie


“Our lawyers feel fortunate that they can use their skills and expertise on pro bono matters to promote racial justice.  We are proud to receive the 2021 Beacon of Justice Award. This recognition will hopefully spur our firm to redouble its commitment – and increase – its racial equity work.”

-- Susan M. Hoffman, Partner, Crowell & Moring


“We are honored that The Holloway Project, Debevoise’s longstanding initiative to address racial inequities in federal sentencing, has been recognized by NLADA as a recipient of this year’s Beacon of Justice Award. Our hope is that by sharing this important effort with the broader legal community through NLADA, we encourage colleagues and peers to join us in fighting the disproportionate impact of unfair prison sentences on communities of color.”

-- John Gleeson, Litigation Partner and former U.S. District Court Judge, Debevoise & Plimpton


“Dechert is honored to receive the Beacon of Justice award. The firm has worked hard to contribute to the positive resolution of issues surrounding racial justice through the work of our pro bono program by protecting the right to vote, advocating for the health of those incarcerated, securing women’s access to reproductive health, uncovering racial disparities in policing, and providing assistance to hundreds of small businesses and nonprofits struggling as a result of the pandemic. Receiving this award solidifies our focus on racial justice issues and Dechert’s goal of effecting systemic change.”

--Stephanie Schlatter, Pro Bono Manager, Dechert


“As we strive toward a more just world, it is imperative we consider the intersectionality between Diversity and Pro Bono teams. These common goals include working within our communities and collaborating with our clients to champion social justice. Through seamless collaboration, we have been able to quickly marshal our firm resources to take action to address social unrest, voter rights, education and housing deltas, among other issues. I have no doubt, addressing these issues so quickly, with boots on the ground, would have been impossible without our Pro Bono team.”

--Raymond Williams, National Diversity & Inclusion Partner, DLA Piper


“When we first became aware of the Compassionate Release Project, we knew it was an opportunity to make a real difference in someone’s life during this incredibly challenging time. We are exceedingly proud of our colleagues and grateful to the firm for their widespread support. Without the selfless and collaborative efforts of our attorneys and staff, federal prisoners in New York, Texas, and North Carolina would still be in an especially vulnerable position of contracting COVID-19 and dying. We appreciate the NLADA’s recognition of our efforts with the Beacon of Justice Award.”

-- Melissa L. Jampol and Eric W. Moran, Members of the Firm, Epstein Becker Green  


“In a year of seemingly endless challenges, our attorneys came together with a diverse group of nonprofit partners and clients to promote racial justice and work to dismantle systemic racism in our legal system, policing, and broader communities. Although the road ahead is long, I am confident these efforts will help us achieve lasting change.”

-- Katie Marquart, Partner & Pro Bono Chair, Gibson Dunn


“The Beacon Award recognizes both Goodwin’s Neighborhood Business Initiative (NBI) and our work dismantling systemic barriers based on race, ethnicity and gender by providing pro bono legal services to Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) and women owned small businesses. As NBI proudly celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, a milestone reflective of 40,000+ hours invested in positively impacting thousands of small businesses and their neighborhoods, we look forward to continuing to ‘walk the walk’ of our commitment to make information and advocacy accessible for all, standing shoulder to shoulder with these small business owners as their dedicated legal counsel.”

-- Anna Dodson, Partner, Goodwin Procter


“At Kirkland & Ellis, we are committed to promoting race equity through high-impact pro bono work, partnerships, and internal programming. We are honored to receive the Beacon of Justice Award, which shines a light on this important work, and encourages more to join in the efforts. Everyone can make a difference.”

-- Leslie Smith, Partner and Chair of the Firm-wide Pro Bono Management Committee, Kirkland & Ellis


“The Beacon of Justice Award is a great honor. We are humbled by this honor and grateful for the recognition as we continue the important work of our Racial Justice Initiative and other pro bono programs aimed at eliminating racial inequity.”

-- Christopher S. Auguste, Partner and Diversity Committee Co-Chair, Kramer Levin


“We are so honored to receive the 2021 Beacon of Justice award from the National Legal Aid & Defender Association for our work on the East Ramapo Central School District Voting Rights case. That victory has restored electoral voting power to a minority community that was entirely shut out, and serves as a blueprint for other districts to start to address issues of race, inequality, and funding.”
-- Andrew Clubok, Partner, Latham & Watkins  


“The Beacon of Justice Award will help raise awareness and inspire further action among our lawyers, staff, and friends, as we all work together to provide essential services and solutions to underserved populations doubly impacted by racial injustice and COVID-19.”

-- Catherine Weiss, Partner and Chair Lowenstein Center for the Public Interest, Lowenstein Sandler


“It is wonderful to receive this recognition from NLADA for our pro bono work to address systemic racial disparities over the past year, which was a long overdue moment of reckoning for many across the country. In 2021 and beyond, we remain committed to taking even greater action to further racial equity by providing pro bono legal assistance to marginalized individuals and groups, promoting access to justice in communities of color, and supporting civil rights-focused nonprofits, among many other initiatives.”

 -- Susan M. Finegan, Member and Chair of the Pro Bono Committee, Mintz


“By highlighting the variety of initiatives undertaken by multiple firms, the Beacon of Justice Awards open the eyes of all of us – including award winners – to new ways we can engage as lawyers to advance racial justice.”

-- Jennifer K. Brown, Senior Pro Bono Counsel, Morrison & Foerster  


“We are humbled to receive the 2021 Beacon of Justice Award for our efforts to advance racial equity. Following the murder of George Floyd, O’Melveny pledged to redouble our longstanding commitment to dismantling systemic racism. We are proud of what we have accomplished, but know there is more work to do. We will continue to identify and take concrete action to fight social injustice.”

-- Brett Williamson, Firm-wide Partner in charge of pro bono and Community Legal Services Committee chair, O’Melveny & Myers


“Sheppard Mullin is honored to have been selected for NLADA’s Beacon of Justice Award for our attorneys’ ongoing work to advance racial equity and improve policing.”

-- Daniel Brown, Pro Bono Partner, Sheppard Mullin


“The Beacon of Justice Award has inspired Steptoe to enhance our commitment to pro bono work that advances racial justice. This year, we have increased our pro bono work and financial support of efforts to achieve racial equity in the law. We reaffirm our commitment to use our pro bono resources to fight racism and advance equality in individual and systematic ways.”

-- Harmony L. Jones, Deputy Pro Bono Counsel, Steptoe & Johnson


“We are grateful to the NLADA to be selected as a recipient of a 2021 Beacon of Justice Award.  It adds encouragement to the satisfaction and purpose Stinson’s lawyers and staff, and our many public interest law partners, receive from our commitment to racial equity work.  We will humbly but steadfastly keep pushing this critical work forward.”

-- Mark Hinderks, Managing Partner, Stinson


“WilmerHale is very proud of this award and of the longstanding commitment of our attorneys and staff to the cause of racial justice and equity. NLADA’s recognition highlights not only the good work that has been done and that is being done in fighting systemic racism in our legal system, but also the immense amount of work still to be done. We are honored to be striving in such good company.”

-- Mark Fleming, Partner and Co-chair of the Racial Justice and Reform Initiative, WilmerHale


“We are very honored and thankful to receive this recognition from NLADA for our racial justice work. And I am personally grateful to our firm’s leadership for their tremendous support and culture-setting in making our sustained efforts possible, as well as for the heart and dynamic work of our dedicated attorneys and staff. We look forward to continuing to expand our efforts and creativity in pursuit of justice for those in need.” 

-- Luke Liss, Senior Counsel and Pro Bono Counsel, Wilson Sonsini


 “Zuckerman Spaeder LLP is grateful that NLADA has dedicated this year’s Beacon of Justice Award to highlighting firms taking part in the fight against systemic racism. By showcasing this work and providing a forum to discuss the myriad issues in the fight, we are able to engage more allies and advocates in using the law to pursue racial equity.”

-- Steve Herman, Partner and Pro Bono Program Co-Chair, Zuckerman Spaeder



The National Legal Aid & Defender Association, founded in 1911, is America’s oldest and largest nonprofit association devoted to excellence in the delivery of legal services to those who cannot afford counsel. NLADA has pioneered access to justice at the national, state and local levels through the creation of our public defender systems and other important institutions from The Sentencing Project to the Legal Services Corporation. A leader in the development of national standards for civil legal aid and public defense, NLADA also provides advocacy, training and technical assistance for equal justice advocates across the country.