DLA Piper announces its 2016-2017 Pro Bono Award winners

On any given day, DLA Piper's lawyers and staff across the country and around the world are committing their time, talent and energy to helping those who cannot afford to hire a lawyer. In 2016, the firm devoted over 217,000 hours to pro bono work globally, and over 117,000 hours in North America.

Recognizing the significant contributions and tremendous impact of this work, DLA Piper is pleased to announce the five recipients of the firm’s North American Pro Bono awards.

Global Co-Chair Roger Meltzer announced the award winners, American lawyers and staff who best exemplify the firm's commitment to giving back to its communities. The winners were selected by DLA Piper's North American Pro Bono Committee from a pool of 37 nominees. In selecting winners, 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.

Gabriela Alaña, a partner in the Mexico City office, contributed to the protection of children's rights by supporting UNICEF Mexico with a legal analysis of Mexican laws and policies, providing an understanding of the impact that businesses have on children. Through Alaña’s efforts, UNICEF Mexico obtained the UNICEF Regional Best Practices Award in the field of Children's Rights and Companies. Alaña also assisted a nonprofit in the incorporation of a Mexican civil organization dedicated to facing sustainable development challenges in Mexico. In addition, she helped The Pale Blue Dot obtain its nonprofit authorization, encouraging donations which allow under-resourced and marginalized Mexican schools to benefit from solar electric facilities.

Ardith Bronson, of counsel in the Miami office, is a pro bono leader both within and outside of the firm. She serves not only on the firm's North American Pro Bono Committee, but also co-chairs the Miami Pro Bono Roundtable, a collaborative organization that works to advance pro bono throughout the city. She has worked with the Florida Bar Foundation on the creation of a state-wide pro bono opportunity portal connecting pro bono attorneys with public interest organizations. Bronson also recently participated in DLA Piper's New Perimeter trip to Nepal to train women lawyers. For nearly two decades, she has represented a prisoner on Florida's death row, and recently led a team working on juvenile life without parole issues in Florida.

Asa Wynn-Grant, an associate in the Silicon Valley office, led three teams that defended Bay Area students facing expulsion from middle and high school. Wynn-Grant and his team helped a high school student, who was facing expulsion for an emotional outburst, challenging the school's denial of special education services for his mental and emotional disabilities. The team also defended two other high school students facing expulsion for off-campus incidents, negotiating alternative punishments with full access to comprehensive schools for both. Wynn-Grant recently received a pro bono leadership award from Legal Services for Children (LSC). He was recognized for the enormous impact that he has had on the lives of children throughout the Bay Area.

Katie Jahnke Dale, an associate in the Chicago office, has worked with a team of lawyers on a resentencing hearing for an individual who received a life sentence for a crime he allegedly committed as a juvenile. She is handling an adult guardianship for a client whose 90-year-old mother has a home in foreclosure, and she is working on a number of zoning matters for a local Chicago nonprofit. Jahnke Dale also works with a team of lawyers assisting immigrants in their application for asylum.

James Brachulis, a senior financial investigator in the New York office, provides investigative and forensic financial analysis in support of pro bono matters for all DLA Piper US offices. Brachulis has provided detailed due diligence related to potential expert witnesses in a Prisoner Civil Rights matter, and he has given support to the Combat Related Special Compensation Project. In addition, he has assisted through forensic financial review and analysis in unraveling potential fraudulent conveyances and false statements by a defendant in a divorce action. As a non-lawyer, Brachulis was recognized with the North American Pro Bono award for outstanding commitment by a staff member.