New York Banks and Law Firms Team Up for Successful Summer Intern Pro Bono Clinic
On July 31, summer interns and attorneys from Goldman Sachs & Co., Barclays, and UBS joined forces with attorneys from Morgan Lewis & Bockius, Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, and Linklaters LLP to help put 25 immigrants on the path to citizenship. In partnership with the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG), the summer interns and attorneys conducted a free clinic to assist immigrants in preparing their naturalization petitions. 13 pro bono attorneys, along with 18 Goldman Sachs, Barclays and UBS summer law and college interns, participated in the clinic, which was hosted by Morgan Lewis.
The naturalization clinic was the brain child of Bernard Williams Jr., an attorney with Goldman Sachs, and a member of the firm’s Pro Bono Steering Committee. Williams had been looking for a summer project that would give the firm’s interns a taste for the strong pro bono culture at Goldman – and expose them to the highly connected world of financial services among New York City’s top banks.
“The number-one goal was to give our interns a meaningful day of pro bono community service, which is an integral part of our culture at Goldman,” said Williams. “But in addition, as future colleagues, I wanted them to get a sense for how close-knit and connected the City’s legal banking community is. People move around – the former GC of Barclays is now at UBS Wealth Management – people’s paths cross again and again as our careers blossom and we get to know and admire each other.”
Williams found NYLAG after doing some online research, seeing that the agency had a good track record of offering project-based volunteer opportunities, and a good reputation among people he works with. Once he connected with NYLAG the project took shape quickly.
Each bank reached out to a law firm with whom they had working ties and asked them to enlist pro bono volunteers to staff the clinic. The goal was to team up a pro bono lawyer and an intern, who would then meet with one or two clients during the clinic to review the necessary forms and documents, and draft naturalization petitions. NYLAG staff prescreened clients to make sure that they were eligible, provided on-site supervision and guidance during the clinic, and was responsible for the final review and filing of all completed petitions. In advance of the clinic all volunteers received webinar training on the preparation of petitions, and the logistics of NYLAG’s naturalization clinics.
According to Williams, the clinic was a success because everyone was fully committed to ensuring that the interns had a robust experience, working directly with pro bono attorneys, interacting with clients – and making a difference in the lives of immigrants and their families. Community service comes naturally to Williams. “When I was very young I was volunteering at soup kitchens in Brooklyn with my family on Thanksgiving Day before I really knew what it meant to ‘give back’. I am proud to be a part of a company that values and encourages community involvement. Thanks to NYLAG and our pro bono colleagues, we were able to do good in the universe, and inspire young people at the very start of their careers to carry on that tradition.”