DLA Piper announces its 2021 North American Pro Bono Award winners
DLA Piper’s lawyers and staff are committed to promoting access to justice by providing their time, talent and energy to those who cannot afford to hire a lawyer. Recognizing the significant contributions and tremendous impact of this work, DLA Piper is pleased to announce the seven recipients of the firm’s 2021 North American Pro Bono Awards.
The winners, who exemplify the firm's commitment to giving back to its communities, were selected by DLA Piper's North American Pro Bono Committee. The committee considered each nominee's overall pro bono accomplishments, the difficulty of the matters handled, the courage involved in taking the assignment and the positive impact of his or her work.
Kelvin Booker, a case manager in the firm’s Baltimore office, focuses his pro bono work on veterans and prisoner rights. He has reviewed numerous military files of veterans seeking discharge upgrades. A discharge upgrade often helps veterans who were involuntarily separated from the military and received a less-than-honorable discharge to gain access to VA benefits, including healthcare. Booker has also worked on a prisoners’ rights class action seeking damages for the inhumane conditions experienced by prisoners, assisting the team with reviewing, summarizing and coding documents produced by opposing counsel.
Matt Denn, managing partner of the Wilmington office, serves as the state co-chair of Delaware’s Redding Consortium on Educational Equity, a statutory body responsible for recommending reforms to support children attending high-poverty schools. In 2021, the Delaware General Assembly accepted US$10 million in recommendations that Denn helped author, resulting in free, full-day Pre-K opportunities for children living in poverty, as well as the creation of expanded school day and expanded school year programs and in-school health services. The initiative also led to the expansion of home visitation programs for infants and toddlers living in poverty. Denn also co-founded Action for Delaware’s Children, a not-for-profit that builds grassroots support for legislative changes that benefit Delaware children. He has been an advocate for the creation of special needs parent councils so that parents of children with disabilities can support one another and act collectively for their children.
Julie Gryce, a San Diego-based associate, has helped victims of domestic violence obtain restraining orders and other support for themselves and their children. She also works on family law matters with the DC Affordable Law Firm (DCALF), which is dedicated to providing affordable legal services for those with modest incomes. Gryce recently took on a leadership role at DCALF, through which she will mentor a team of junior lawyers handling active divorce and custody matters. With a team of DLA Piper lawyers and co-counsel, she has also played a critical role pursuing impact litigation in federal court on behalf of a class of relative foster families and children to obtain foster care maintenance payments. She argued the preliminary injunction hearing before a US District Court and is currently assisting with the appeal.
Katie Hausfeld, a Chicago-based partner, worked with a global DLA Piper team representing the Georgian country delegation during the Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC). After supporting the team remotely since 2013, in November 2021, Hausfeld and three colleagues accompanied the delegation to Glasgow for two weeks to support Georgia’s negotiation efforts at COP 26. In addition, Hausfeld has also helped to conduct trial advocacy training for Caribbean police prosecutors through New Perimeter and the National Center for State Courts, providing in-person training to police prosecutors in Trinidad, the Bahamas and Grenada, as well as virtual trainings in Barbados and Guyana.
Rachel Horton, Philadelphia-based associate, litigates pro bono appeals in a variety of areas. When DLA Piper represented Pennsylvania counties to defend the integrity of their election results in the wake of the 2020 presidential election, Rachel was instrumental in preparing a persuasive response brief after opposing counsel filed an expedited appeal. The majority of her pro bono caseload consists of court-appointed appeals from the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, where twice in the past year she has presented oral argument. In a recent appeal, she is representing an immigrant who had been litigating pro se for years. The case involves complex legal issues in an evolving area of the law, and the court’s decision could significantly impact criminal prosecutions and immigration matters throughout the circuit.
Dennis Kiker, a senior attorney in Phoenix, represented two inmates during the pandemic and successfully secured the early release of a 61-year-old cancer victim who was subsequently able to meet his only grandson for the first time. He is also part of a team working with co-counsel on an important prisoner rights case. After initially joining the team to take point on eDiscovery issues, Kiker quickly took on a leadership role through which he has provided strategic guidance, helped draft motions, coached associates preparing to take fact and expert depositions and defended one of the plaintiffs’ own experts. He also actively supported both the Census Protection and Election Protection Hotlines, responding to questions and inquiries about the census and voting issues.
Renee Schoenberg, a senior counsel in Chicago, provides pro bono clients with nonprofit corporate, exempt organization tax and charitable organization advice. Over the last year, she assisted more than 50 pro bono clients, and, jointly with pro bono counsel from the firm’s Paris office, presented a program on basic legal issues for nonprofit leaders. One of her longest and most meaningful client relationships is with Project Exploration, a Chicago-based organization that provides STEM opportunities to youth, especially girls, from communities historically underrepresented in STEM. Schoenberg has served as Project Exploration’s outside pro bono legal counsel since 1999 and has contributed to making a positive impact on the lives of more than 20,000 Chicago Public School children.