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Pro Bono Spotlight: Sidley Austin LLP


Sidley Austin LLP has a long history of engaging in pro bono work and each year, Sidley lawyers and staff devote more than 100,000 hours to pro bono projects. Sidley’s pro bono program includes four firm-wide projects, numerous legal aid undertakings and a culture of volunteerism that stretches across the globe.

To enable its attorneys to help more clients, Sidley has centralized the coordination of some of its pro bono work. In 2004, a Sidley attorney attended a meeting sponsored by the ABA Death Penalty Representation Project, where he learned of a desperate need for representation for defendants on death row in Alabama, and around the country. While individual attorneys at Sidley Austin had provided pro bono legal services to death row inmates before, partners at Sidley realized the efficiencies that could be leveraged by taking many cases in one jurisdiction. With that commitment, Sidley’s Capital Litigation Project was born.

In the ten years since the Capital Litigation Project was started, Sidley added the Political Asylum and Immigrants’ Rights Project in 2006, the Veterans Benefits Project in 2007, and the Africa & Asia Agricultural Enterprise Program in 2012.

In Illinois, Sidley attorneys and staff make a strong effort to volunteer in the community. Each month, Sidley sponsors a legal clinic through Chicago Volunteer Legal Services (CVLS). They also partner with the Family Defense Center, CVLS’s Salvation Army Legal Clinic, and many more organizations across Chicago to provide legal aid to the needy and underrepresented in the community. Individual attorneys at Sidley volunteer their time and services, and many serve as Board Members for nonprofit organizations, including PILI’s current Board President, Richard O’Malley, Jr.

“At Sidley, we believe giving back to our communities through pro bono efforts is an obligation of those in the legal profession,” said O’Malley, partner in Sidley’s Chicago office and Chair of its Pro Bono Committee. “Through firm-wide pro bono projects we proudly provide service to members of our communities who are in need. In addition to these specific projects, Sidley lawyers serve pro bono clients on a wide variety of litigation and transaction matters. We are committed to pro bono service and believe it is the hallmark of a great firm.”

In addition to their pro bono work, Sidley sponsors many PILI Graduate Fellows each year and will sponsor 16 this summer. These Fellows receive a special stipend from Sidley to work at legal aid agencies the summer after law school graduation, providing critical support to these organizations. One such Fellow was Barbara Barreno, who completed her Fellowship in 2011. She has continued legal aid and pro bono work as an associate at Sidley, and in 2012 and 2014 she received the firm’s Thomas H. Morsch award for outstanding pro bono service.

“My pro bono asylum matters have been an invaluable part of my practice and have enabled me to gain valuable advocacy skills and serve populations that are most in need,” said Barreno. “I am proud of Sidley’s longstanding commitment to pro bono work and service to the greater Chicago community.”

Sidley houses a world-class formal pro bono strategy that cultivates a culture of pro bono service in Chicago and beyond. As Sidley’s four firm-wide projects demonstrate, Sidley is open to new strategies to help more pro bono clients. To learn more about their pro bono efforts, visit their website at


View all of PILI’s past Pro Bono Spotlights »

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