In addition to our firmwide cornerstone projects, we provide comprehensive pro bono services that address the critical legal needs of our neighbors and communities, including individual representation cases on a host of areas of law that clients living in poverty often face. In the UK, Sidley handled 24 cases at 1,154 hours for our welfare benefits and prisoners’ rights clients. The firm was also recognized for our work on behalf of small business owners who were heavily impacted by the pandemic.
Sidley’s D.C. office partners with local legal services organizations, including Bread for the City, Children’s Law Center, D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center, Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, Network for Victim Recovery of D.C., and Whitman-Walker Legal Services, in order to represent our neighbors who could not otherwise afford counsel. In the District of Columbia, Sidley handled 16 cases totaling 783 hours for low-income individuals and families in housing, family law, consumer, and public benefits matters.
Another important way in which we aim to help our neighbors and neighborhoods is by supporting the success of local nonprofits. In one such recent matter, Sidley represented The Gift of Chess, Inc. in obtaining 501(c)(3) status. Launched in 2021, the young organization accomplished its preliminary goal of distributing 10,000 chess sets and access to chess technology to students across New York City’s public schools in December 2021. The initiative was featured on ABC as well as US Chess’ “One Move at a Time” podcast.
In addition to youth education, The Gift of Chess is now expanding to three other initiatives — global, prison, and elderly outreach. Through these additional initiatives, The Gift of Chess aims to reach communities around the world, providing opportunities for people to improve their decision-making skills and combat social isolation.
“Chess changed my life … I want to give these children that opportunity to change their own lives.”
— Tyrone Davis, III, founding board member of The Gift of Chess and U.S. Chess Master, who traveled to Nigeria in early 2022 to provide 500 chess sets to children as part of The Gift of Chess’ global outreach effort
The Welfare Disability Benefits Project has been active since 2016 and has served over 100 clients to date. In 2021, the project was expanded to co-counsel from an in-house legal department, and a new partnership was developed with Richmond Aid, a charity run by and for people with disabilities.
In 2021, we launched a major partnership with Not Beyond Redemption to assist mothers in prison to re-establish and regenerate the fundamental relationship with their children. Through pro bono legal clinics and casework, we provide extensive legal advice on family and children matters. In the first six months of the project, Sidley held six clinics at HMP Send and HMP Downview and took on over 20 cases.
In August 2021, Sidley’s London office launched a major pro bono partnership with Not Beyond Redemption, a charity that provides legal advice to women currently in prison or who have been released.
Through the project, we staff pro bono legal clinics in women’s prisons across the UK to give advice to mothers in order to help mothers re-establish critical access and relationships with their children. We provide support to these vulnerable women both during and after their prison sentences.
The lack of access women prisoners have to their children, and other systemic impacts of incarceration on individuals and their families, are longstanding challenges for society. Every year, thousands of children are placed in foster care and children’s homes or put up for adoption because their mothers are in prison. Not Beyond Redemption and Sidley are committed to reconnecting these women with their children to help them on a path toward a better future.
“In 2021, we partnered with Sidley and we were delighted when no fewer than 50 pro bono lawyers came forward. We work daily with Sidley to ensure that their lawyers are providing the best possible support to these vulnerable women, helping them whilst in prison and on release, until the child comes of age. Each case is different and can take a few hours or many years depending on the complications involved. We have been thrilled at the commitment from Sidley in helping these women. Together we are transforming the lives of children by ensuring they build healthy relationships with their mothers.”
— Camilla Baldwin, Founder of Not Beyond Redemption
During 2021, our lawyers recorded a 100% success rate in our representation of multiple clients in the Social Security Tribunal. At a time when poverty is increasing, people with a disability face many additional costs and higher unemployment rates. Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) can be a lifeline to the people that we assist through this project. Lawyers from across nearly all practice areas in our London office participate in this project.
One Sidley team took on a very challenging PIP appeal at short notice. The client suffered from debilitating mental health problems, accompanied with physical limitations that left him incredibly isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the presence of a Presenting Officer, which created an adversarial tone to the proceedings, the tribunal decided in favor of the client — overruling the previous award for standard PIP — and granted him enhanced PIP for both the daily living and mobility components.
Another team’s client had suffered a long history of domestic abuse, which had left her mentally ill and with severe physical injuries. She was primarily cared for by her teenage children. Fortunately, on the strength of the written submissions alone, the tribunal awarded the client the enhanced rate of PIP for daily living and mobility, overturning the previous award without the need for a hearing.
Our lawyers successfully represented another individual in his PIP appeal, securing him a significant sum in backdated benefits and an enhanced award for the mobility component for at least five years. The team faced significant time constraints after taking on the case so close to the hearing date, and the client was extremely grateful for their support.
“Thank you sooooooo much for all your help. I’m overjoyed and
in tears ... happy tears this time. I don’t know how I can repay you all.”
— Our Client