Pro Bono

One firm. One heart. Committed to change for the better.

As lawyers, we are committed to the principle that all persons are entitled to equal access to justice. The impoverished in our communities are often the least able to navigate or afford the complexities of legal representation. This has an impact beyond individuals to families and communities.

Greenberg Traurig’s commitment to leveraging our platform to serve our communities allows us to give a voice to those in need and maximize the impact of our pro bono efforts.

Providing volunteer legal services to the underserved and to the numerous civic and charitable organizations dedicated to assisting them is not only the right thing to do, but it is at the core of who we are. Whenever possible, we collaborate with our clients to maximize the impact of our efforts. Complementing the services our individual lawyers provide, the Holly Skolnick Fellowship Foundation enables us to serve as the largest sponsor of Equal Justice Works.

Areas of Impact

  • Affirmative action
  • Charitable organizations
  • Children and family
  • Civil rights
  • Criminal appeals
  • Guardianship
  • Health care
  • Housing and homelessness
  • Immigration/political asylum
  • Indigent and working poor
  • LGBT+ community 
  • Special education
  • Military and veterans

Representative Projects / Awards & Accolades

The following are representative examples of our pro bono commitment. For a full description of the awards and accolades that we have received for our pro bono work, click here.

Pro Bono Cases

Congregation Shearith Israel Ownership of Historic Touro Synagogue: A Greenberg Traurig team led by Louis M. Solomon won a complete reversal in the First Circuit Court of Appeals of a lower court decision that had erroneously turned Touro Synagogue over to its tenants rather than to Congregation Shearith Israel. Shearith Israel, the country’s oldest Jewish congregation, owned Touro, the oldest synagogue building in America, since the early 19th century. The original congregation of Newport Jews had left Newport, Rhode Island, after the turmoil of the Revolutionary War period, and many became members of Shearith Israel in New York. Jews began to return to Newport in the 1880s. Shearith Israel opened the synagogue to them, and in 1903 signed a lease with the new congregation, Congregation Jeshuat Israel, letting them use the synagogue and its “paraphernalia,” for the token rent of $1/year. That “paraphernalia” included colonial-era silver “rimonim” – a pair of finials that adorn the Torah. This particular pair was made by silversmith Myer Myers, a contemporary of Paul Revere and the first Jew to become a member of Britain’s silversmith guild. In 2012, in derogation of the lease, Jeshuat Israel voted to sell the rimonim to fund an endowment. Shearith Israel found out and asserted its ownership and its religious objection to the sale of such objects that partake of the holiness of the Torah. Jeshuat Israel brought suit in Rhode Island, asserting its ownership of the rimonim – and also challenging Shearith Israel’s ownership of the synagogue itself, alleging it was held in trust and that Shearith Israel should be removed as trustee. After a 9-day bench trial, the trial court issued a 106-page decision on May 16, 2016, finding in favor of Jeshuat Israel. Shearith Israel was thus completely removed from any further connection with Touro Synagogue, for the first time in 200 years. In an August 2, 2017, decision of the First Circuit, the decision of the lower court was reversed in toto. Shearith Israel was declared the outright owner of both the rimonim and the Touro Synagogue, free of any trust obligations to Jeshuat Israel. Thus, Shearith Israel was restored to the position it had held for centuries.

Kids in Need of Defense (KIND): Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) honored Greenberg Traurig with an award for extraordinary contributions to the protection of children who come alone to the United States in search of safety. In a world where problems can often seem overwhelming, we feel fortunate to work with an organization like KIND, whose efforts have made a tremendous impact in the lives of countless children. In a short period of time, KIND has managed to create a nationwide network of staff and pro bono attorneys, all dedicated to the rights of unaccompanied minors who find themselves in this country without the assistance of legal counsel. More than 100 of our attorneys are trained to handle unaccompanied minor cases, and we are moving forward with these cases at full speed. To date, our active team of 21 shareholders, 42 associates, nine of counsel, 13 paralegals, seven researchers, and countless staffers have spent more than 3,550 hours on KIND cases.* Additionally, the Greenberg Traurig Fellowship Foundation is proudly funding a full-time fellow at KIND through Equal Justice Works.

*At time of award. Numbers may fluctuate.

ACLU Historic Gay Adoption Case: A Greenberg Traurig team took on the pro bono representation of two young brothers whose foster father, a gay man in whose care the children had flourished since 2004, sought to adopt them. This representation culminated in a landmark case challenging a Florida statute barring gay men and lesbians from adopting children. Following a 4-day trial in October 2008, in which we and the father's lawyers succeeded in establishing that there is no rational basis for denying children the right to be adopted by qualified gay parents, or for denying gay men and lesbians the same rights as other citizens to be considered as adoptive parents, a Miami-Dade County judge declared the statute unconstitutional and granted the father's petition to adopt the children. The court ruled that the ban on gay adoption violated the Florida Constitution's guarantee of equal protection because it irrationally singled out for differential treatment gay parents and their would-be adoptive children. On Sept. 22, 2010, the Third District Court of Appeals upheld the trial judge's decision. The appellate court agreed that there is no rational basis for discriminating against gay adoptive parents and that the statute was unconstitutional. Within days of the court's decision, the Florida Department of Children and Families directed that Florida citizens seeking to adopt children may no longer be asked to state their sexual orientation.

Legal Representation for LGBTQ Foster Youth: The Greenberg Traurig Holly Skolnick Fellowship Foundation recently named eight new public interest fellows in partnership with Equal Justice Works, a nonprofit organization that provides 2-year fellowships to aspiring public interest lawyers. The eight new fellows named in 2017, join the eight current Greenberg Traurig-sponsored fellows who are entering the final year of their fellowships. The new fellows begin their work at a wide range of community organizations in September 2017. One of the fellows, Mackenzie Becker, a graduate of Howard University School of Law, will work with Children’s Law Center to create a model for culturally competent legal representation for LGBTQ foster youth in Washington, D.C. by directly representing youth, engaging in coalition building and outreach, and training stakeholders. Becker’s sponsorship is co-sponsored by Steptoe & Johnson. 

Marriage Equality. Greenberg Traurig Shareholder Gregory F. Ostfeld, among others, prepared the amicus curiae brief on behalf of the Anti-Defamation League filed in March 2015 in the four cases then pending before the Supreme Court: Obergefell v. Hodges, Tanco v. Haslam, DeBoer v. Snyder, and Bourke v. Beshear, which challenge the constitutionality of state marriage equality bans. 

Pro Bono Contacts
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