Global law firm Baker McKenzie has been recognized as a 2022 Beacon of Justice Award honoree by the National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA) for the second consecutive year. This prestigious award highlights law firms working to "address racial inequities within their communities and/or on the national level."
Led by Angela Vigil, Partner and Executive Director of Pro Bono and Jaclyn Pampel, Pro Bono Partner, Baker McKenzie's Pro Bono practice has launched and participated in a number of high-impact initiatives that address racial disparities through the protection of children's rights, ensuring equal opportunity voting and combating racism. The Firm leverages an extensive network of public interest partners, legal aid groups, children's rights organizations, companies, clients, friends and non-profits to execute anti-racist work that address racial inequities within our local communities and on a national and global level.
"Anti-racism work is essential to our Firm,” Angela commented about the award. “It is an honor to receive this recognition for a second straight year, demonstrating our unwavering commitment to racial equity work. I am proud of the innovative, strategic approaches we have developed that allow us to have a profound impact on marginalized communities in our fight for justice and equality around the world."
Colin Murray, Baker McKenzie's North America Chief Executive Officer, added, “We stand united as a Firm in our commitment to promoting anti-racism and building greater inclusion and equity in our world. We won't stop advocating for under-represented voices and dedicating resources to dismantling systemic disparities until we have achieved full equality for all."
Some initiatives through which the Firm has worked to address racial and social justice challenges around the globe include:
- The Fight for Voting Rights: On behalf of the Harriet Tubman Freedom Fighters, the Firm raised a challenge to legislation in Florida that newly mandated forced speech from voter registration organizations while trying to register voters. Our work resulted in a US federal judge striking down key parts of the law. During the last national election, Baker McKenzie also had a team of 175+ professionals across the country staff the non-partisan Election Protection hotline.
- The Fight for Prisoner's Rights: The Firm is representing incarcerated persons who received non-unanimous jury verdicts in Louisiana to work toward resentencing from "Jim Crow" era laws aimed at disempowering Black jurors in state criminal trials. We are also advocating for prisoner's rights in Chicago.
- Justice in Action: Through our revolutionary, globally-recognized Justice in Action initiative, attorneys and professionals come together for a multi-hour time period to do pro bono together (virtually), just as they might at a live clinic. We conducted 35+ sprints in the past 12 months in North America, Europe and Asia. Almost 1,400 volunteers across the globe have participated in one years' time, with more than 800 in-house team members involved in 2021 alone. Cutting-edge legal work executed through the sprints includes the creation of Real Rights: A City-By-City Guide for Youth Interacting with Police, a first-of-its-kind, city-specific guide for youth who come into contact with the police. This project is focused on cities where Black and Brown children, youth and adults engage with the police more often and with dangerous results.
- Homeless Youth Handbook: The Homeless Youth Handbook series are state-by-state legal guides that describe the rights and resources available to homeless young people in the United States. On February 23, 2021, Baker McKenzie launched the Massachusetts Homeless Youth Handbook in partnership with Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, Boston Scientific, and Liberty Mutual. On November 9, 2021, the Firm released another handbook in North Carolina in a partnership with Legal Aid of North Carolina and Bank of America.
- Non-profit Support HUB: We provide essential transactional support to NGOs around the global, many of which are focused or touch on racial equality issues, to help them with their operations and legal needs to help them achieve their missions. As a result, these organizations can do critical work in access to justice, rule of law, rights of minority groups, freedom of association and access to public resources, foster care and child welfare, criminal justice and sentencing, and much more.
Baker McKenzie and other 2022 Beacon of Justice honorees will be celebrated at this year's NLADA Exemplar Awards Gala, "Sustaining Racial Equity and Hope," in Washington, DC on June 9. This event brings together leadership from the corporate, law firm, civil legal aid and public defense communities to pay tribute to NLADA’s community of advocates and to support NLADA’s national leadership uniting the civil, client and defender communities in finding creative solutions to scale access to justice to 100 percent.