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Clifford Chance ramped up its US pro bono credentials last Tuesday (10 June) when the UK-headquartered firm hosted a reception marking the launch of We Will Be Heard - a new book charting the decades-long struggle for constitutional rights in the US. Americas managing partner Craig Medwick introduced the high-profile roster of guests, who included Georgetown law professor David Cole, four of the individuals featured in the book, and its co-author Bud Schultz, the professor emeritus of psychology and education at Trinity College, Hartford.
During his introduction, Medwick pledged that Clifford Chance would be asking its US lawyers to deliver at least 50 hours each in the current year to pro bono or civic matters.
He added that 20 per cent of the total hours in 2008 would be devoted to providing legal services to individuals who have been denied their constitutional rights - the subject of Schultz's book.
Speaking after Medwick, Cole said it was particularly fitting that the book was being launched at Clifford Chance, which he hailed as "one of the first law firms in the world to seek to defend the people at Guantanamo Bay".
Much of the content of the book made the connection with Clifford Chance less obvious. It features tales of workers' rebellions and class struggles against an oppressive state, ranging from
the Everett Massacre of 1916 to the current controversies surrounding the Patriot Act.
However, Clifford Chance does have a tradition of pro bono activity in the US. Last year, for example, The Lawyer reported that the firm had won a last-minute stay of execution for the longest serving man on death row in the US, Jack Alderman (TheLawyer.com, 19 October 2007).
It also successfully litigated the release of Martin Tankleff, a Long Island resident wrongfully convicted for the 1988 murder of his parents, and helped a Zimbabwean headmaster facing persecution in his own country to obtain political asylum and remain in the US with his family.
In total in 2007 Clifford Chance's US lawyers logged 22,900 pro bono hours - an average of 67 hours each.