Pro Bono Service
36,000+ hours donated in 2017
Public service at Steptoe is an integral part of our history, ethos, and operations. The principle of increasing access to justice guides our pro bono efforts. Steptoe is a charter signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge, and was one of the first law firms to establish a position for a lawyer with full-time responsibility overseeing the firm’s pro bono program.
Many pro bono matters handled by Steptoe lawyers involve significant legal issues with far-reaching effects, such as race, age, gender, sexual orientation, and disability discrimination; human rights; freedom of speech; prisoners' rights; and voting rights. We also assist local, national, and international nonprofit organizations that contribute to advances in fields like health, education, economic development, homelessness, and the environment. The firm likewise provides pro bono legal services to individuals in matters that include custody, adoption, domestic violence, guardianship, housing and homelessness, political asylum, immigration, education, consumer protection, public benefits, assistance to veterans, criminal records expungement, mental health, and tax.
Sampling of Pro Bono Matters
Civil Liberties and Civil Rights: Steptoe has filed amicus briefs in several different matters involving LGBT and same-sex marriage issues in the Supreme Court as well as lower courts. We assist college students experiencing mental or emotional difficulties in challenging involuntarily suspensions in violation of federal law. The firm also is involved in several efforts directed at protecting voting rights.
Community Economic Development: Steptoe is engaged in community economic development projects, such as ensuring the appropriate implementation of employment and housing requirements in local urban development ventures.
Criminal: The firm secured the release of an innocent man who had been on death row for decades, and we currently represent four other clients facing capital punishment. In addition, Steptoe assists survivors of sexual assault in protecting their rights throughout the prosecution of their assailant. The firm also represents clients seeking to have their criminal records expunged, and is defending protesters arrested during the last presidential inauguration.
Disability: Steptoe regularly works with clients suffering from disabling mental and physical health conditions to obtain public benefits crucial to their securing and maintaining housing, ensuring the availability of an adequate food supply, and other life necessities.
Education: Our lawyers represent parents of special needs students to ensure they receive services crucial to a meaningful education. Additionally, for more than two decades, the firm has had a partnership with an inner-city elementary school, and has provided a range of services, including tutoring, mentoring, and special enrichment activities.
The Elderly: Steptoe regularly assists elderly clients in negotiating a workable resolution of federal and local income tax problems, as well as in consumer and housing matters.
Environment: The firm works with environmental organizations to safeguard the integrity of various endangered habitats to insure compliance with applicable laws and regulations.
Family Law: We have a large docket of family law matters, including representing caregivers seeking to adopt or be granted guardianship of the children and incompetent adults in their care, and we represent clients in custody and domestic violence cases. Our lawyers also staff advice and referral clinics for pro se litigants in custody and child support cases.
Housing and Homelessness: The firm is an active participant in a housing right to counsel initiative, and has saved numerous low-income clients from eviction. Steptoe lawyers also regularly volunteer at homeless legal clinic intake sites.
Human Rights: Each year, Steptoe works to secure lawful immigration status for a significant number of foreign-born clients who have left their country of origin to escape political, religious, and other forms of persecution. We also represent children who are escaping parental abuse and victims of human trafficking and violent crime.
Nonprofit Organizations: Steptoe lawyers provide legal assistance to an array of groups whose missions focus on achieving advances in education, health, the environment, civil liberties, social action, animal rights, and the like.
Tax: In addition to the tax work on behalf of elderly clients mentioned above, we have partnered with nonprofit organizations in a variety of tax policy matters.
Veterans: Our lawyers help veterans suffering from service-related injuries and other medical conditions to obtain the kind of assistance from the Veterans Administration that they deserve.
Awards and Recognition
Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an inter-faith civil rights advocacy organization committed to nonviolent action to achieve social, economic, and political justice, honored Susan Esserman with the Justice for Girls Empowerment Award for her work to assist survivors of human trafficking.
Steptoe received the 2018 Pro Bono Partner Award from DC Law Students in Court (LSIC) for the firm's participation in LSIC's expungement project.
SurvJustice, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit organization providing legal assistance, policy advocacy, and victim advocate services to victims of sexual assaults on college campuses, honored Steptoe with the Vanguard Award.
The New York City Bar Justice Center selected Jasmine Campirides to receive its Jeremy G. Epstein Awards for Pro Bono Service.
The DC Housing Right to Counsel Project, established approximately a year ago, recognized John O’Connor with its first Outstanding Pro Bono Service Award.
The ABA Death Penalty Representation Project honored Steptoe with its Exceptional Service Award.
At its 43rd anniversary celebration, Ayuda presented George Grandison with its Hall of Fame Award for his steadfast assistance to foreign-born clients struggling to resolve immigration problems.
Forestdale, a well-regarded, 160-year-old nonprofit foster care agency, honored Mike Miller and Evan Glassman with its 2015 Cornerstone Award for the tremendous effort they devoted to successfully defending the agency against a baseless, though potentially devastating, lawsuit.
The John Carroll Society presented its 2015 Pro Bono Legal Service Award to Steptoe.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund recognized Steptoe with its 2015 Advancement in Animal Law Pro Bono Achievement Award.