Baker & McKenzie Toronto Receives 2010 Lexpert Platinum Award - International Human Rights for Work with Holocaust Survivors
1 November 2010
Toronto, Canada, November 1, 2010 – Baker & McKenzie has received the 2010 Lexpert Platinum Award in International Human Rights for its pro bono work assisting Holocaust survivors in the German Ghetto Work Payment Program (GWPP).
The award honours leading Canadian law firms, in-house departments and law students who are committing their time, skills and mentorship to a diverse and valuable range of pro bono activities. The Platinum Award is the highest level of distinction.
Baker & McKenzie partnered with UJA Federation of Greater Toronto’s Jewish Information Service of Toronto (JIST) to host free clinics to assist Holocaust survivors in filing claims under the GWPP. The GWPP is an initiative of the German Federal Government to provide compensation to people who performed work while in German-controlled Jewish Ghettos during the Nazi era. To qualify under the program, the applicant survivor must have lived in a German-controlled Jewish Ghetto, worked while in the Ghetto and must be alive at the time of making the application. The program represents an effort by the German government to bridge a long-standing gap in the structure of its Holocaust reparations. Baker & McKenzie was recruited to this work for survivors by a leader in public interest law, Bet Tzedek House of Justice.
Due to stipulations in German law, there were complex restrictions on the type of compensable work performed, making legal assistance important during the application process. Baker & McKenzie lawyers worked directly with survivors to recall and articulate the precise information needed for the forms – a challenge given the passing of time and the horror of the Holocaust. The Firm’s Toronto tax partner Brian Segal and associate Randy Schwartz led the team on this pro bono initiative.
“This was a rewarding and enriching experience for Baker & McKenzie. We saw firsthand the strength and resilience of the survivors who built new lives for themselves in Canada despite the horrors they experienced in Nazi-occupied Europe,” said Jim Holloway, Managing Partner Baker & McKenzie’s Toronto office.
“The experience of working with the Toronto office of Baker & McKenzie proved to be positive and illustrated the significance of ongoing partnerships between UJA Federation and firms across the Greater Toronto Area,” said Randy Shiff, a member of the Capacity Building Committee of UJA Federation and a Director of its Board. “Together, we can increase our capacity to meet the needs of our community while benefiting from the dedication and expertise of volunteers.”