Emerging Enterprises

I cannot express how happy I am with the outcome and how much it will help me moving forward.

— Sidley client and Army veteran


“I am so happy that this settlement will ensure that there are limits on ICE’s authority to detain people like me and other asylum seekers in the future.”

— Johan Barrios Ramos, class representative in Abdi v. Mayorkas
“It has been so helpful working with the great legal team at Sidley to work through our corporate structuring needs. We wouldn't have been able to access this level of support without the pro bono program.”

— Claire Mongeau, Director, M-Shule;
M-Shule clients pictured here

“...this settlement will allow me to get back on my feet and properly care for my kids. I’m grateful to put this behind me and look forward to continuing my work on covering issues of racial, social, and economic justice.”

— Linda Tirado, photojournalist and Sidley client

“Over the last nine years, Sidley has provided pro bono legal services to the Global Shea Alliance on a wide variety of topics. The lawyers have always demonstrated a true and genuine interest in the success of the GSA projects.”

— Aaron Adu, Managing Director of Global Shea Alliance (GSA); GSA clients pictured here


Today's decision continues a troubling trend in which this Court strains to reverse summarily any grants of relief to those facing execution.”

— Justice Sotomayor in her dissenting opinion on the case of Sidley's client, Matthew Reeves
“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, pictured here with a chess prodigy in Makoko, Lagos, Nigeria
“At the heart of our Bambú installations is a philosophic engineering: Simply put, the invisible architecture of life is created by actions intersecting with conditions or other actions. We all climb through this structure (and contribute to it) as we navigate life.”

Big Bambú creators, artists, and identical twin brothers Mike and Doug Starn
“I’ll forever be thankful for ... the team of experienced and caring professionals who championed my cause and earned my release.”

– Lebert Gordon, Sidley client, pictured here with Sidley Project Assistant S.J. Smith

Project Overview

2021 STAT: 5,000 Hours
2021 STAT: 190+ MATTERS
2021 STATS: 9,900+ hours | 120+ matters
2021 STATS: 200+ clients | 55+ countries | 56,500+ hours | 65+ projects

Our Emerging Enterprises Pro Bono Program aims to support sustainable and economic growth across the developing world by providing quality legal services to help social and environmentally focused businesses expand operations, access new markets, and seize investment opportunities. In doing so, we contribute to the realization of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically its Goal 8, which aims to “promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.” During its ten years of existence, the EE Program has supported 200+ micro, small, and medium sized enterprises, trade associations, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) across 55+ developing countries. Our pro bono clients come from a diverse set of sectors, including food and agriculture, manufacturing, education, technology, health, finance, clean energy, water and sanitation, and work tirelessly to solve the world’s most pressing problems. More than 1,050 Sidley lawyers and specialists have contributed more than 56,500+ hours of work to the EE Program since 2012, advising our pro bono clients on such issues as: reviewing contracts; supporting clients in negotiations and investment rounds; advising on corporate structuring and restructuring; assisting with intellectual property and data protection; addressing and removing trade barriers in regional and international markets; reviewing regulatory requirements for health, safety, packaging, and product standards; and more.

“The Equal Justice Initiative continues to be energized by the level of diligence, compassion, and skill that Sidley’s lawyers demonstrate in their death penalty cases. When other law firms are reluctant to take even one capital case, we point to Sidley’s Capital Litigation Project as the example of how it can be done successfully with many clients. Sidley’s commitment to fighting for fairness and due process on behalf of people who are on death row in Alabama has created optimism for everyone concerned about justice in Alabama.”

— Randy Susskind, Deputy Director, Equal Justice Initiative

Photos below from top to bottom: an ATEC Biodigesters client; a Babban Gona client; an M-Shule student; a BioLite client with one of the company’s cook stoves; Osei-Duro dyers drying fabric; StrongMinds clients.

Photos below from top to bottom: an ATEC Biodigesters client; a Babban Gona client; an M-Shule student; a BioLite client with one of the company’s cook stoves; Osei-Duro dyers drying fabric; StrongMinds clients.

Pictured here: Big Bambú. Photos below from top to bottom: Joffrey Ballet Company (photo by Cheryl Mann); Joffrey artists Yoshihisa Arai, Fernando Duarte (photo by Matt de la Peña); Joffrey artists Victoria Jaiani, Dylan Gutierrez (photo by Matt de la Peña); people exploring the interior of the Big Bambú installation; mockup of Big Bambú installation along the Rio Grande River; Big Bambú installation at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Photos below from top to bottom: Joffrey Ballet Company (photo by Cheryl Mann); Joffrey artists Yoshihisa Arai, Fernando Duarte (photo by Matt de la Peña); Joffrey artists Victoria Jaiani, Dylan Gutierrez (photo by Matt de la Peña); people exploring the interior of the Big Bambú installation; mockup of Big Bambú installation along the Rio Grande River; Big Bambú installation at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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Overview

Europe Overview

2,100+ hours across Brussels, Geneva, and Munich
Our pro bono efforts in Europe have global reach and local impact. We help individuals and families who face significant barriers in obtaining access to justice. Our lawyers work with a range of organizations, from startup social enterprises to some of the largest charities in the world, focusing on enhancing community impact and strengthening the fundamental rule of law.

Trade for Development Initiative
The COVID-19 pandemic magnified existing inequalities and forced us to rethink and question the structure of our societies and economies. It has become clear that the policy choices that governments implement today are crucial to build greener, more inclusive economies that will chart the path for a more sustainable future. In this context, the Geneva-based Trade for Development Initiative continues to advance the critical sustainability agenda by providing legal and technical advice to government officials from developing and least developed countries, trade associations, and NGOs — specifically, how to better leverage international legal frameworks — with a particular focus on trade agreements, industrial policy, and green growth. Our client portfolio has expanded to include the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), the Royal Kingdom of Bhutan, the government of Mauritius, the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, the Bangladeshi Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, the Convention against Torture Initiative, and the International Institute for Sustainable Development. More than 45 lawyers, economists, and trainees across nine Sidley offices have been involved, billing over 3,600 hours under this Initiative since 2018. Looking ahead, the Trade for Development Initiative is committed to support governments, policy makers, and institutions to not only getting economies and livelihoods back on their feet, but also safeguarding prosperity and equality in the long run. 

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Global Shea Alliance

Sidley has advised the Global Shea Alliance (GSA) on a variety of projects, including on regulations to expand market access in the U.S., providing analysis on taxes imposed for certain countries on the exportation of shea butter, and an analysis on how the African Continental Free Trade Area will impact trade of shea and shea butter on the African continent.

GSA is a multi-stakeholder, nonprofit industry association promoting sustainability in the shea industry, quality practices and standards, and demand for shea in food and cosmetics. The GSA has 560 members from 35 African countries, including women’s groups, retailers, suppliers, and non-governmental organizations. The GSA benefits West African communities who rely on shea nuts for their income, including millions of women shea nut farmers. Expanding market access helps increase demand, prices, production, and incomes for these farmers. The GSA’s partners are committed to the formalization and organization of women collectors, increasing their knowledge of shea markets, and promoting decent working conditions for all people in the shea supply chain.

Over the last nine years, Sidley has provided pro bono legal services to the Global Shea Alliance on a wide variety of topics. The projects include legal guidance to establish the Parkland Restoration Fund, production of a cookies policy for the shea markets platform, policy advocacy in the U.S. and India to open new markets for shea, and extensive economic analysis to show the impact of these policy changes on demand for shea from West Africa. In addition, Sidley is developing a manual to provide guidance on how shea businesses can capitalize on the benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, as well as analysis of the impact of new tax regimes arising in shea-producing countries across West Africa. 

Aaron Adu, Managing Director of the GSA, said that demand for shea derivatives is on the increase, resulting in increased demand for shea from West Africa and the consequential improvement in the livelihood of women collectors as well as preservation of the shea ecosystem. The GSA has saved at least US$200,000 in legal fees as a result of Sidley’s benevolence.” 

Responsive and considerate, Sidley has placed at the disposal of GSA a range of legal experts in Europe and North America who are always on the lookout to support the GSA. The lawyers have always demonstrated a true and genuine interest in the success of the GSA projects. The GSA is grateful for this kind gesture which we cannot pay in financial reward to Sidley.”

— Aaron Adu, Managing Director of GSA
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Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States

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Sidley has advised the OECS for several years on issues relating to WTO reform, fisheries subsidies, and on measures designed to secure essential supplies early during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, our lawyers have advised the OECS on how to establish a regional Intellectual Property Directorate. 

The OECS is an inter-governmental organization dedicated to economic harmonization and integration, protection of human rights, and encouragement of good governance in the Eastern Caribbean. The organization currently has eleven members, bound together not only by geographical proximity but also by close historical, cultural, and economic relationships.

“This ground-breaking work portends the creation of a new approach to the protection, registration and further monetization of IP rights. The Sidley Trade for Development Program is best in class and has provided measurable benefits.”

— Stephen Fevrier, former Ambassador to the Permanent Delegation to the United Nations of the OECS

Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association

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The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) is a trade association dedicated to promote the Bangladeshi apparel industry. Since its inception in 1983, BGMEA’s mission is to promote and facilitate the apparel industry through policy advocacy to the government, services to members, ensuring workers’ rights, and social compliance at factories. BGMEA collaborates with local and international stakeholders, including brands and development partners, to pave the way for development of the Bangladeshi apparel industry. Currently, BGMEA has around 4,000 registered garment factories. Around 40% of BGMEA member factories are knitwear and sweater manufacturers, and the remaining 60% are woven garment manufacturers.

In 2024, Bangladesh will lose its Least Developed Country (LDC) status — a categorization made under the United Nations classification system. As a result, Bangladesh will lose preferential market access into the EU under the Everything But Arms (EBA) program, under which Bangladeshi products were imported duty free. The loss of EBA preferences is predicted to severely affect Bangladesh’s garment exports to the EU, which accounts for 90% of the EU’s imports from Bangladesh. This, in turn, will significantly affect the competitiveness of Bangladesh’s garment exporters, and could have devastating consequences for Bangladesh’s garment industry. All this is happening against the backdrop of Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) reform discussions at the EU level. The current GSP program expires in 2023, and EU legislators are in the process of revamping it. In this context, Sidley's lawyers have provided advice on how BGMEA can best position itself to influence GSP reform such that it can continue to benefit from preferential market access to the EU, even when its LDC status expires.  

“The BGMEA wants to ensure that the government representatives should … be in sync with the private sector’s engagement with Sidley so that a common view can be developed,” said former BGMEA President Rubana Huq, who was quoted in "The Daily Star," a newspaper in Bangladesh. “Sidley Austin will help the BGMEA with framing the grounds based on the government’s extended Everything But Arms (EBA) engagement request.” 
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Overview

UK Overview

9,000+ UK pro bono hours
Our pro bono program in London is wide-reaching and impactful. In 2021, we undertook several access to justice projects which focus on serving people with disabilities, asylum seekers and refugees, and children. We launched a major new partnership helping women in prison and set up projects to assist litigants in person in family court and to provide entrepreneurs with commercial and corporate legal advice. We also expanded our welfare benefits project to in-house counsel, and in response to the crisis in Afghanistan, we worked with immigration practitioners to triage requests regarding resettlement options in the UK. Through our charities and nonprofits program, we advised clients across a range of commercial practice areas, enabling them to focus on delivering front-line services. We proudly supported the next generation of lawyers by sponsoring pro bono fellowships for newly qualified associates at UK-based charities.

Sustainability Work
The London pro bono program is committed to undertaking projects and supporting nonprofits that promote sustainability and environmental conservation efforts in the UK and across the globe.

Fairtrade Foundation
Sidley assisted the Fairtrade Foundation with the development of a Farmer’s Resilience Tracker, a web-based application using lean data technology to give its users a real-time and tailored assessment of farmer’s resilience levels and fluctuations over time. This technology will enable the systematic evaluation of how a crisis, such as COVID-19, has affected smallholder farmers and to assess in real time their expected preparedness, or resilience, to respond to the current situation and other social, environmental, and economic shocks that may occur in the future.

CREO Syndicate
A Sidley team assisted CREO, together with in-house counsel, with the terms of their new lease of office space. CREO is a charity with a mission to address climate change and resource scarcity by catalyzing private capital into innovation solutions to protect and preserve the environment and accelerate the transition to a more sustainable economy.

Dogs 4 Wildlife
Another team advised Dogs 4 Wildlife, an organization which specializes in providing highly trained dogs to wildlife reserves across Africa. Dogs 4 Wildlife’s dogs are trained in the UK and used for detection, tracking, and apprehension in order to reduce poaching of wildlife. The organization also provides one-to-one training of new dogs and offers regular consulting services before and after the dogs are deployed.

ReSpace Projects
Sidley assisted ReSpace Projects, a nonprofit organization that makes use of empty buildings for social projects and community events, in relation to relief from business rates.

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Project Afghanistan

Following the fall of Kabul to the Taliban in August, we collaborated with other top city firms to provide pro bono support to individuals amidst the unfolding crisis. Project Afghanistan was developed to assist the Immigration Law Practitioners Association and the Afghan and Central Asian Association by triaging hundreds of requests for resettlement options in the UK. Sidley lawyers processed nearly 150 cases within the space of a few weeks. Overall, the project responded to over 1,400 requests for assistance.

OnePower Lesotho

As part of the firm's Emerging Enterprises Pro Bono Program, a Sidley team — based in London and Houston, Texas — represented OnePower Lesotho, a fast-growing startup and innovative social enterprise, on the Electrification Financing Initiative and the Renewable Energy Performance Platform’s LSL150 million senior debt and equity investment.

The approximately US$9.5 million investment, which has been financed through EU- and UK-owned impact investment facilities, will fund the construction of a portfolio of 11 solar mini-grids in Lesotho with a total capacity of 1.8MW. Once built, the solar mini-grids will provide first-time electricity access to over 20,000 people and enable 13 health clinics, 25 schools, and over 100 small enterprises to benefit from renewable energy.

Family Court

In 2021, we partnered with the Free Family Representation and Advocacy Project, a charity dedicated to assisting litigants in family court in England and Wales. Through this project, Sidley lawyers act as pro bono advocates in Section 8 Children Act 1989 proceedings, conducting representation and advocacy at all stages of proceedings.

Employment Tribunal

The London litigation team has been representing a servicewoman in her claim against the Ministry of Defence for bullying, harassment, and discrimination. The Sidley team represented the client in a full-day hearing at the Employment Tribunal, where it was argued that her claim should be dealt with by the Employment Tribunal in circumstances where she has missed a deadline and failed to include information in the initial complaints.

IMMIGRATION AND ASYLUM WORK

KIND UK

Following the launch of our partnership with Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) UK and the Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit, we have now taken on several cases to help children apply for British citizenship. Sidley’s lawyers dedicated more than 600 hours to KIND cases in 2021.

Our lawyers assisted a young boy who had moved from Kenya when he was just one year old due to a severe breakdown in family relations. It was clear from discussions with him, and from reviewing over 40 supporting statements from family and friends, that he is an asset to the community, having volunteered countless times to assist those in need during the height of the pandemic, along with mentoring younger children at church and school. The Sidley team were able to reflect his generosity to the community and his passion to study law at university in his submission, resulting in a grant of citizenship a few days before his 18th birthday.  

Another Sidley team assisted a 15-year-old boy who had moved to the UK when he was just two years old and had no recollection or connection to his country of birth. He aspired to play professional football and required British citizenship so that he could travel to play at club level. Sidley lawyers were able to collate significant evidence and draft detailed submissions to the Home Office in support of his application, resulting in a grant of citizenship. 

“I thank you all for your support, you can’t understand how [we are] so excited and very grateful. I and my family do appreciate, bless your services thanks.”

— Our client’s mother

IMMIGRATION AND ASYLUM WORK

Asylum Support Appeals Project

We work with the Asylum Support Appeals Project to assist destitute asylum seekers who have been refused financial support and/or housing by the Home Office. In 2021, there was a backlog of challenging and complex cases coming through the system, due to the Home Office resuming decisions to discontinue asylum support, something it suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sidley dedicated more than 70 hours to Asylum Support Appeals Project cases in 2021.

DISABILITY RIGHTS WORK

SEAS Sailability

Sidley advised SEAS Sailability, a charity based in North Wales which supports disabled people in recreational water sports and activities in a safe and social environment, ensuring that their families and caregivers can share these experiences. Sidley assisted with formalizing a collaboration with another local charity to further promote inclusivity in the community, schools, and among young people.

DISABILITY RIGHTS WORK

Vision Foundation

Sidley advised Vision Foundation in relation to the development of a digital employment campaign featuring visually impaired people. The campaign comprises a number of short films designed to spotlight inspirational role models and change employer attitudes. They were published online through social media channels, attaining 70,000 views in the first months of the campaign.

“Sidley has provided phenomenal support over the last year, from ad hoc HR matters, to major digital campaigns, to a merger of our corporate entities. The Sidley team is always responsive, reassuring and highly effective. As pro bono clients, charities can sometimes feel like second-class customers, but with Sidley, we never feel anything but top, front and center of their priorities. The impact of this on our ability to do our job as a charity, helping people and transforming society, is immeasurable.”

— Dr. Olivia Curno, Chief Executive, Vision Foundation; Vision Foundation clients pictured below
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Overview

Asia Pacific Overview

700+ APAC pro bono hours
Sidley is deeply committed to aiding local Hong Kong charitable organizations and businesses in achieving their goals. In 2014, a Sidley pro bono team in Hong Kong established a Hong Kong-registered charity, Help for Children (HFC) Asia Limited. HFC Asia currently funds two local charities in Hong Kong, which focus on the prevention and treatment of child abuse. In 2021, the Sidley team advised the charity in relation to all aspects of the legal requirements relating to its operations, including the raising and deployment of funds.

Sidley’s Hong Kong office is also active in the cancer impact investment field, working with clients and industry contacts in a pro bono capacity to establish investment funds that raise and deploy capital for companies that are developing transformative research and treatment options in relation to cancer prevention and care, particularly pediatric cancer treatment. 

Additionally, a Sidley pro bono team in Hong Kong has been closely involved in framing and developing the Limited Partnership Fund Ordinance and related amendments. This landmark legislation has helped transform Hong Kong’s private fund market, as it is the first foundational law to be enacted that specifically relates to the asset management sector and that will permit the establishment of private funds as limited partnerships that are organized under Hong Kong law. Previously, Hong Kong’s private fund industry utilized investment fund structures that were almost exclusively structured and organized through offshore centers. Since the law was enacted in August 2020, more than 350 private funds have registered under the new regime, which continues to garner significant momentum and support from industry. 

In 2021, the Sidley team also devoted considerable time to the re-domiciliation portion of the bill, which became law on November 1, 2021. This bill increases the scope and use of the Limited Partnership Fund regime and is further strengthening Hong Kong’s competitiveness as a primary international asset and wealth management hub. In a recent study, PWC has estimated that the new Limited Partnership Fund Regime may create up to 20,000 new job opportunities in Hong Kong. 

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Overview

Civil Rights Overview

Our pro bono practice has had a longstanding commitment — both firmwide and in our local communities — to promoting civil and human rights and social justice. We are dedicated to devoting our time and resources to these matters, using our legal skills to ensure a just and fair society and accelerate the societal change necessary to reach that goal.

Our lawyers worked with the Illinois Prison Project to seek executive clemency for state prisoners serving life terms under “three strikes” laws. We also worked with Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York on amicus briefs on behalf of prisoners’ rights advocates. With the Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission, Sidley investigated whether prisoners’ claims of tortured confessions merit judicial review of their convictions.

Section 1983 Work
Sidley’s Section 1983 practice has been a fixture of our pro bono work for many years. The firm represents numerous clients challenging violations of their constitutional rights. These matters include suits seeking redress for victims of police misconduct and violence, individuals whose rights have been violated while detained in jails, and prisoners who have been subjected to cruel and unusual punishment while incarcerated. Our lawyers also regularly partner with legal service organizations and experts in the field to file amicus briefs advocating for the rights of prisoners and other vulnerable citizens. We represent clients across the country in trial courts, appellate courts, and at the United States Supreme Court. The firm litigated more than 25 active Section 1983 matters in 2021, amounting to more than 14,500 pro bono hours on behalf of our clients. Sidley achieved many important victories in 2021, from defeating summary judgment in multiple cases to helping clients reach meaningful settlement of their claims.

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Section 1983 Victory for Prisoner Kept in Solitary Confinement

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Sidley won a victory in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit on behalf of a client incarcerated in the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) who has faced extreme hardship in prison, living for years in solitary confinement without access to adequate mental health treatment. The client originally filed suit pro se in September 2016, challenging IDOC’s failure to provide him with constitutionally adequate mental health treatment and alleging that the deficient care he received at Pontiac Correctional Center, where he was housed in solitary confinement, exacerbated his mental illness and would continue to lead him to self-harm. Sidley became his counsel in 2017 and helped the client file an amended complaint and litigate his case through discovery as well as oppose the defendants’ motions for summary judgment.

In 2020, as the summary judgment motions were pending, and as the Sidley team was preparing for trial, the district court dismissed the case as a sanction for a “fraud on the court,” based on asserted lies in the original pro se complaint. The appeal challenged that determination. On February 1, 2022, the Seventh Circuit panel reversed the district court’s sanctions order, finding that the district court’s findings of fraud were clearly erroneous — a complete appellate victory, setting up the case for a resolution on the merits.

During the district court proceedings, the Sidley team partnered with the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center.

Sidley Team Frees Innocent Man

Sidley partnered with the Northern California Innocence Project and Covington & Burling LLP to secure the exoneration of Juan Bautista, an innocent man sentenced to 40 years to life for a shooting that he did not commit. Mr. Bautista was 19 years old when he was arrested for attempted murder in 2009 and had spent 12 years wrongfully incarcerated before his release in June 2021.

Mr. Bautista’s release came after a multi-year investigation into the shooting. The Sidley team guided the investigation that unearthed credible and material exculpatory evidence nearly a decade after the shooting. Armed with the newly discovered evidence, in October 2019, Sidley and its partners, NCIP and Covington, filed a habeas corpus petition in San Joaquin County Superior Court seeking a reversal of Mr. Bautista’s conviction under both California and federal law. The petition persuaded the court that Mr. Bautista had made a prima facie showing that he was entitled to habeas relief. In July 2020, the court ordered an evidentiary hearing to decide the petition.

At the evidentiary hearing, conducted in mid-June 2021, the team presented a compelling case for the reversal of Mr. Bautista’s conviction for the 2009 shooting. His conviction was based entirely on the testimony of only two eyewitnesses. The team presented evidence that vitiated Mr. Bautista’s previous identification and identified the real shooter. The team elicited testimony from witnesses that his near-twin brother committed the shooting. Witnesses also testified that eyewitnesses who had previously identified Mr. Bautista as the shooter during the initial investigation were never shown a photo of his brother. The San Joaquin County Superior Court found the newly discovered evidence met the requirements for post-conviction reversal. The court determined that, had the jury heard the newly discovered evidence during his 2011 trial, it was more likely than not that at least one juror would have had a reasonable doubt as to Mr. Bautista’s guilt. The San Joaquin District Attorney’s Office ultimately conceded that Mr. Bautista’s conviction could not be maintained in light of the new evidence. After the district attorney’s concession, the court ordered Mr. Bautista’s release.

Mr. Bautista was released from prison on June 24, 2021 and was reunited with his wife, daughter, and extended family.

Sidley client, Juan Bautista, after
obtaining his freedom.
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Important Win for Survivors of Domestic Violence

In Jane Doe v. Olson, the California Supreme Court issued a powerful decision about the litigation rights of survivors of domestic violence, reversing the decision below and handing our client a substantial anti-SLAPP victory. The case involved whether a generic non-disparagement provision in a “stay away” agreement between a sexual assault survivor (our client, Jane Doe) and her abuser should be construed to forever waive the survivor’s right to bring a civil suit for damages about existing or future harassment.

Doe and Olson lived in the same housing complex; Doe, proceeding pro se, sought a civil harassment restraining order, accusing Olson of sexual assault, harassment, and other misconduct. Using a court-appointed mediator, the parties reached a mutual “stay away” agreement in which they also agreed “not to disparage one another” for three years. 

Later that year, Doe filed a civil complaint against Olson, repeating and adding to the allegations at issue in the restraining-order petition. Olson responded with a cross-complaint accusing Doe of breach of contract, on the theory that Doe’s mediation agreement had forever forfeited her litigation rights regarding Olson’s past or future misconduct. Doe filed a special motion to strike (anti-SLAPP motion) Olson’s contract claim. The Superior Court of Los Angeles denied the motion in pertinent part, and the Court of Appeal of the State of California affirmed, but the Supreme Court accepted review, at which point Sidley joined the case.

In early February 2022, the court reversed. In a sweeping decision involving important public policy issues surrounding civil harassment restraining orders and non-disparagement clauses, the court held that simple agreement not to “gossip” about the other person — entered into with no consideration, payment, or acknowledgment of wrongdoing — could not be construed as a full-blown litigation waiver, and that Doe’s lawsuit therefore did not breach the mediation agreement. Thus, the court held, the anti-SLAPP motion should have been granted and Olson’s contract claim should have been stricken. As a result of the decision, Doe will be entitled to recover fees and costs under the anti-SLAPP statute.

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COMPASSIONATE RELEASE

A Second Chance After a Life Sentence

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Sidley successfully secured compassionate release of an inmate who was sentenced to life in prison on federal drug charges under the outdated and mandatory regime that punished an offender who dealt in crack cocaine far more severely than one who dealt in powder cocaine.

Working alongside corporate counsel, and with the invaluable guidance of FAMM (f/k/a Families Against Mandatory Minimums), the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the E.D. Wisconsin Federal Public Defender’s office, the team drafted a motion for a reduced sentence on behalf of the inmate pursuant to two resentencing provisions of the First Step Act that attempted to address the 100-to-1 sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine convictions. The motion also argued that extraordinary and compelling circumstances existed because the client’s co-defendant had received only a 20-year sentence and had already been released, while the client, in his 50s, faced decades more time behind bars. In response, the government agreed that the client deserved a sentence reduction to time served, and notified the court that it did not oppose the petitioner’s motion. As a result, the client left prison after 16 years, instead of serving a life sentence.

COMPASSIONATE RELEASE

Victory for Double Amputee Client

A cross-office team of lawyers achieved a significant pro bono victory on behalf of an individual detained at a federal medical penitentiary amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. As a double amputee with myriad medical conditions, including hypertension and type 2 diabetes, the individual was at a severely increased risk of illness from COVID-19.

To date, 20 inmates have died and more than 360 have been infected at the Missouri-based penitentiary. As COVID-19 raged through the federal prison system, the individual became increasingly concerned for his safety, filing a motion for compassionate release in federal court.

The individual argued that his susceptibility to COVID-19 and the failure of prison officials to curb the disease’s rapid spread constituted “extraordinary and compelling” reasons for a sentence reduction. However, a federal district court in the District of Columbia believed itself bound by an outdated policy statement, United States Sentencing Guidelines (U.S.S.G.) § 1B1.13, which bars compassionate release unless the court first finds that the defendant “is not a danger to the safety of any other person or to the community,” and therefore denied the motion.

Following the denial of relief, Sidley was appointed as pro bono appellate counsel for the individual. On May 18, 2021, the D.C. Circuit ruled in favor of our client. After briefing and oral argument by the Sidley team, the D.C. Circuit vacated the district court’s order and remanded for further proceedings. The court clarified the legal standard for compassionate release motions after the First Step Act, holding that U.S.S.G. § 1B1.13 is not applicable to compassionate release motions filed in federal court by defendants — as opposed to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The Second, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Ninth, and Tenth Circuits have likewise held that the policy statement does not apply to defendant-filed motions, with only the Eleventh Circuit reaching a contrary conclusion. The D.C. Circuit further explained that the district court’s interpretation of the relevant provision was plainly erroneous, that our client suffered prejudice as a result of the sentencing error, and that a failure to correct this error would seriously affect the fairness, integrity, or public reputation of judicial proceedings. On remand, the individual will be afforded another opportunity to receive compassionate release.

Due to pandemic-related restrictions on travel and court access, the Sidley team argued the matter virtually before the D.C. Circuit.


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National Council For Adoption

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Sidley obtained a major pro bono victory in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on behalf of the National Council For Adoption (NCFA). In 2018, the U.S. Department of State issued a series of guidance documents that effectively prohibited a form of adoptions that was commonly used to advocate for children with special needs and other hard-to-adopt children. The district court dismissed NCFA’s lawsuit for lack of standing. On appeal, the D.C. Circuit unanimously found that NCFA had associational standing and vacated the challenged guidance, holding that the guidance was a legislative rule that was unlawfully issued without notice and comment. In November 2021, NCFA honored Sidley with its “Friend of Adoption Award.”

“Sidley provided a high-caliber team of attorneys to serve as pro bono representation to NCFA’s legal challenge to guidance issued by the Department of State. They put in long hours and significant devotion to ensuring that they heard from the adoption community, understood the relevant legal issues, and represented NCFA and the wider community well. The Sidley team was professional, committed, and very enjoyable to work with. Their legitimate concern for adoption-related policy and their dedication to providing high-quality legal services was evident in every interaction.”

— Ryan Hanlon, Acting CEO/President, National Council For Adoption

Religious Liberties Work

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Sidley continued to partner with Yale Law School’s Free Exercise Clinic. Working with Yale students participating in the clinic, Sidley filed amicus curiae briefs in five appellate cases advancing religious liberties protected under the First Amendment, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. 

Sidley represented a range of faiths and religious organizations, including the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, Assemblies of God, the Anglican Church in North America, the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the Orthodox Union, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, Alliance Defending Freedom, the Sikh Coalition, and the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, in trial and appellate matters raising important questions of religious liberty.

Our lawyers advised religious universities, primary and secondary schools, and community churches on corporate organization, by-laws, policies, and procedures to promote compliance with federal, state, and local corporate, privacy, civil rights, and employment laws, and to take full advantage of Constitutional and statutory protections for faith-based organizations.

Major Disability Rights Victory

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After three years of intense litigation, Sidley obtained a major victory in the field of disability rights when a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio granted final approval to a settlement agreement between the state of Ohio and firm client Disability Rights Ohio. The class action was brought on behalf of thousands of disabled persons in Ohio who continue to live and work in segregated institutions, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and contrary to the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Olmstead decision. The agreement obligates the state to offer more vigorous “options counseling” for individuals currently housed in, or heading toward, medium and large residential institutions; funding for community housing and employment placements; and US$24 million in capital housing assistance over the next two years. The agreement also establishes criteria by which future funding and placement levels are to be determined.

Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association

The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) is a trade association dedicated to promote the Bangladeshi apparel industry. Since its inception in 1983, BGMEA’s mission is to promote and facilitate the apparel industry through policy advocacy to the government, services to members, ensuring workers’ rights, and social compliance at factories. BGMEA collaborates with local and international stakeholders, including brands and development partners, to pave the way for development of the Bangladeshi apparel industry. Currently, BGMEA has around 4,000 registered garment factories. Around 40% of BGMEA member factories are knitwear and sweater manufacturers, and the remaining 60% are woven garment manufacturers.

In 2024, Bangladesh will lose its Least Developed Country (LDC) status — a categorization made under the United Nations classification system. As a result, Bangladesh will lose preferential market access into the EU under the Everything But Arms (EBA) program, under which Bangladeshi products were imported duty free. The loss of EBA preferences is predicted to severely affect Bangladesh’s garment exports to the EU, which accounts for 90% of the EU’s imports from Bangladesh. This, in turn, will significantly affect the competitiveness of Bangladesh’s garment exporters, and could have devastating consequences for Bangladesh’s garment industry. All this is happening against the backdrop of Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) reform discussions at the EU level. The current GSP program expires in 2023, and EU legislators are in the process of revamping it. In this context, Sidley's lawyers have provided advice on how BGMEA can best position itself to influence GSP reform such that it can continue to benefit from preferential market access to the EU, even when its LDC status expires.  

“The BGMEA wants to ensure that the government representatives should … be in sync with the private sector’s engagement with Sidley so that a common view can be developed,” said former BGMEA President Rubana Huq, who was quoted in "The Daily Star," a newspaper in Bangladesh. “Sidley Austin will help the BGMEA with framing the grounds based on the government’s extended Everything But Arms (EBA) engagement request.” 

Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States

Sidley has advised the OECS for several years on issues relating to WTO reform, fisheries subsidies, and on measures designed to secure essential supplies early during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, our lawyers have advised the OECS on how to establish a regional Intellectual Property Directorate. 

The OECS is an inter-governmental organization dedicated to economic harmonization and integration, protection of human rights, and encouragement of good governance in the Eastern Caribbean. The organization currently has eleven members, bound together not only by geographical proximity but also by close historical, cultural, and economic relationships.

“This ground-breaking work portends the creation of a new approach to the protection, registration and further monetization of IP rights. The Sidley Trade for Development Program is best in class and has provided measurable benefits.”

— Stephen Fevrier, former Ambassador to the Permanent Delegation to the United Nations of the OECS

Global Shea Alliance

Sidley has advised the Global Shea Alliance (GSA) on a variety of projects, including on regulations to expand market access in the U.S., providing analysis on taxes imposed for certain countries on the exportation of shea butter, and an analysis on how the African Continental Free Trade Area will impact trade of shea and shea butter on the African continent.

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Overview

Racial Justice Overview

Sidley undertook numerous racial justice pro bono matters in 2021 and is participating in joint programs with other firms — including, for example, as a founding member of the Law Firm Antiracism Alliance — to explore ways in which legal action might address racial injustice and other racial and social justice concerns. We have a long history of pro bono success and of partnering with civil rights and other organizations focused on combating racial injustice. We reiterate our commitment to using the power of our collective voices and resources to deepen and extend the work we are already doing to combat racial injustice and to advance the fundamental principles of equity, equality, inclusion, and justice.

Visit the links below to learn more about our commitment to diversity and inclusion:                      
Sidley’s Message of Solidarity            
Sidley Stands Against Anti-Asian Violence                
Sidley Joins ACLU Campaign Against Discriminatory Policing Practices

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Working Together to Fight Police Misconduct

Through this pro bono matter, Sidley and the ACLU of Louisiana aim to help effect badly needed policy change within the police department. The lawsuit seeks redress for violations of an officer’s First Amendment right to speak on matters of public concern, Louisiana’s Whistleblower Statutes, and the Constitution of the State of Louisiana, as well as injunctive relief for defamation, civil conspiracy, false light invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. 

In 2020, Sidley joined the ACLU of Louisiana's new program, titled “Justice Lab: Putting Racist Policing on Trial.” The initiative aims to bring strategic lawsuits to combat racism by challenging racially discriminatory policing practices, while training the next generation of lawyers in civil rights litigation.

Victory for Photojournalist Covering Black Lives Matter Protest

On June 2, 2022, a settlement was approved between Sidley pro bono client and freelance journalist Linda Tirado and the City of Minneapolis in a case being heard in the Federal District Court of Minnesota. The settlement includes a substantial monetary sum for Ms. Tirado, as well as acknowledgements from the City with respect to policies and procedures related to the use of force.

Ms. Tirado found herself at the center of a national outcry when she was permanently blinded in one eye from a 40-mm less-lethal projectile fired by a Minneapolis Police Department officer while she covered a protest in Minneapolis in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. Sidley filed a complaint against the City of Minneapolis and others on Ms. Tirado’s behalf stating claims for violations of her rights under the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments, Conspiracy Against Constitutional Rights, and common law battery.

In February 2021, after a full briefing and oral argument from both sides, the court denied motions to dismiss from the defendants and ordered discovery to proceed, which eventually led to the approved settlement.

“This was a precedent-setting case because we prevailed over the City’s attempt to dismiss Linda’s civil right claims, which usually requires evidence of a pattern of misconduct over a long period of time,” said Tai-Heng Cheng, co-lead pro bono counsel for Ms. Tirado’s case and global co-head of the international arbitration and trade practice at Sidley. “We believe that by preserving our civil rights claim in the City’s failed motion to dismiss, we were able to trigger changes in police procedures relating to the use of force, generally, including against journalists covering constitutionally-protected protests. This was one of our stated goals.”

“We are also pleased that we were able to settle this case for a large sum of money before it went to trial,” said Mr. Cheng. “As such, we avoided a delay in paying Linda, who desperately needs the money to pay her medical bills and to support her two children.”

Ms. Tirado’s case raises important questions related to the rights of independent journalists to cover newsworthy events, and has received widespread media coverage.

“Although no amount of money will completely restore the professional damage or resolve the trauma my family and I have endured these past two years, this settlement will allow me to get back on my feet and properly care for my kids. I’m grateful to put this behind me and look forward to continuing my work on covering issues of racial, social, and economic justice.”

— Linda Tirado, photojournalist and Sidley client

Education Victory for Boston Students

On behalf of the Boston Branch of the NAACP, and working with Lawyers for Civil Rights and Greater Boston Legal Services, Sidley obtained a victory in a matter seeking to uphold an interim admissions plan for Boston’s highly selective public high schools. This win is expected to have implications for equity in Boston school admissions policies for years to come. On April 15, 2021, U.S. District Court Judge William Young upheld a one-year admissions plan that allocated seats in Boston’s elite high schools by academic performance and zip code as race-neutral and constitutional. The plan was developed to achieve geographic, economic, and racial diversity. This was followed by another victory on April 28, 2021, when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit denied the plaintiff’s request for an injunction pending an appeal.

The Sidley team committed more than 745 pro bono hours to the representation of the NAACP Boston Branch, along with several other community organizations and individuals, in this matter.

The victory was reported by several media outlets, including The Boston Globe and Boston NPR station WBUR.


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Overview

Supreme Court Overview

Sidley’s Supreme Court Pro Bono Program has been representing clients for many years. Our pro bono presence in the Supreme Court is well reflected in our body of work. Committed to pro bono at the highest level, we have taken on many civil and criminal cases that have resulted in precedent-setting decisions and made a lasting impact on our clients.

Northwestern Supreme Court Clinic

Sidley’s partnership with Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law gives students the opportunity to work on cases pending before the Supreme Court. Third-year law students are supervised by Sidley lawyers in researching and drafting briefs in cases at the petition stage and on the merits.

The students also monitor lower court decisions to identify potential candidates for petitions for writs of certiorari. Sidley partners Carter Phillips and Jeffrey Green serve as the Northwestern Supreme Court Clinic’s directors, along with Northwestern Professor Xiao Wang and Sidley project assistants Maggie Bahnson and Kelsey Handschuh.

In 2021, the Clinic filed eight petitions for a writ of certiorari on a range of issues detailed below. Students also contributed to briefing and oral argument preparation in two cases on the merits (United States v. Cooley and Greer v. United States). The questions presented in the students’ petitions were:

Chad Thompson v. Richard DeWine: 1. Whether ever-changing and ongoing government-issued COVID-19 restrictions moot First Amendment challenges to ballot access restrictions. 2. Whether and how the First Amendment applies to regulations that impede a person’s ability to place an initiative on the ballot.

Penn v. United States: 1. Whether United States v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549 (1995), compels overruling Scarborough v. United States, 431 U.S. 563 (1977), which requires only a minimal nexus to interstate commerce to sustain Congress’ exercise of its Commerce Clause power. 2. Whether, under this Court’s decision in United States v. Bailey, 444 U.S. 394 (1980), a felon who flees from law enforcement before discarding a firearm is precluded as a matter of law from presenting an affirmative defense of justification for his unlawful possession of the gun.

Rigsby v. Colorado: Whether the Due Process Clause and the Sixth Amendment require that a defendant receive a new trial where a jury returns mutually exclusive guilty verdicts.

King v. United States: Whether a crime that requires a resulting death categorically includes, as an element, “the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another” under the elements clause of 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(3)(A), even when the offense can be proven without a volitional use of force.

Baxter v. Superintendent SCI: Whether an erroneous reasonable-doubt instruction that would be structural error on direct appeal warrants a presumption of prejudice when raised in a federal habeas petition through an ineffective assistance of counsel claim.

Haggerty v. United States: 1. Whether the “interracial” nature of a minor offense in Indian country is an element of 18 U.S.C. § 1152, rather than an affirmative defense, and thus must be both pled and proved by the prosecution. 2. Whether the government must plead and prove the “interracial” nature of a minor offense in Indian country to establish federal subject-matter jurisdiction under 18 U.S.C. § 1152. 

Santos-Portillo v. United States: Whether a federal court has the discretion to exclude evidence obtained by federal law enforcement agents in violation of a federal statute, as three circuits have held, or whether courts per se lack such authority in the absence of a constitutional violation or express statutory remedy, as the lower court and three other circuits have held.

Nishiie v. United States: 1. Whether the Wartime Suspension of Limitations Act suspends the statute of limitations for fraud offenses that have no nexus to the war or armed conflict. 2. Whether the Wartime Suspension of Limitations Act applies based upon the statutory definition of the offense charged rather than factual allegations of the defendant’s conduct.

United States v. Justin Eugene Taylor: Whether 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(3)(A)’s definition of “crime of violence” excludes attempted Hobbs Act robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1951(a) — this amicus brief was written on behalf of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

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Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association

The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) is a trade association dedicated to promote the Bangladeshi apparel industry. Since its inception in 1983, BGMEA’s mission is to promote and facilitate the apparel industry through policy advocacy to the government, services to members, ensuring workers’ rights, and social compliance at factories. BGMEA collaborates with local and international stakeholders, including brands and development partners, to pave the way for development of the Bangladeshi apparel industry. Currently, BGMEA has around 4,000 registered garment factories. Around 40% of BGMEA member factories are knitwear and sweater manufacturers, and the remaining 60% are woven garment manufacturers.

In 2024, Bangladesh will lose its Least Developed Country (LDC) status — a categorization made under the United Nations classification system. As a result, Bangladesh will lose preferential market access into the EU under the Everything But Arms (EBA) program, under which Bangladeshi products were imported duty free. The loss of EBA preferences is predicted to severely affect Bangladesh’s garment exports to the EU, which accounts for 90% of the EU’s imports from Bangladesh. This, in turn, will significantly affect the competitiveness of Bangladesh’s garment exporters, and could have devastating consequences for Bangladesh’s garment industry. All this is happening against the backdrop of Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) reform discussions at the EU level. The current GSP program expires in 2023, and EU legislators are in the process of revamping it. In this context, Sidley's lawyers have provided advice on how BGMEA can best position itself to influence GSP reform such that it can continue to benefit from preferential market access to the EU, even when its LDC status expires.  

“The BGMEA wants to ensure that the government representatives should … be in sync with the private sector’s engagement with Sidley so that a common view can be developed,” said former BGMEA President Rubana Huq, who was quoted in "The Daily Star," a newspaper in Bangladesh. “Sidley Austin will help the BGMEA with framing the grounds based on the government’s extended Everything But Arms (EBA) engagement request.” 

Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States

Sidley has advised the OECS for several years on issues relating to WTO reform, fisheries subsidies, and on measures designed to secure essential supplies early during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, our lawyers have advised the OECS on how to establish a regional Intellectual Property Directorate. 

The OECS is an inter-governmental organization dedicated to economic harmonization and integration, protection of human rights, and encouragement of good governance in the Eastern Caribbean. The organization currently has eleven members, bound together not only by geographical proximity but also by close historical, cultural, and economic relationships.

“This ground-breaking work portends the creation of a new approach to the protection, registration and further monetization of IP rights. The Sidley Trade for Development Program is best in class and has provided measurable benefits.”

— Stephen Fevrier, former Ambassador to the Permanent Delegation to the United Nations of the OECS

Sidley has advised the Global Shea Alliance (GSA) on a variety of projects, including on regulations to expand market access in the U.S., providing analysis on taxes imposed for certain countries on the exportation of shea butter, and an analysis on how the African Continental Free Trade Area will impact trade of shea and shea butter on the African continent.

Global Shea Alliance

IMPACT LITIGATION

FEATURE SECTION

M-Shule

M-Shule is a personalized knowledge-building platform in Africa that connects students to tailored learning, evaluation, activation, and data tools via SMS and messaging. M-Shule combines artificial intelligence to reach offline or marginalized communities with self-paced, interactive, and personalized resources. Students can learn new skills, receive tutoring on subjects at school (such as English or Math), take courses on business development, and empower themselves. M-Shule’s platform has processed 1.25 million messages and positively impacted more than 20,000 households.

Our lawyers have advised M-Shule on convertible note agreements, company restructuring, setting up a Delaware Corporation as the holding company of M-Shule’s Kenyan entity, and setting up a Series-A fundraising round.

“M-Shule’s mission is to make educational and training tools available to everyone to help unlock new opportunities, no matter where they are or what phone they have. It would not have been possible without the work of my phenomenal, innovative, and dedicated team working together with our learners of all ages. It’s been such an honor to hear that our users are rural women that can now learn how to open small businesses from their homes, or parents who can help their children practice their homework. It has been so helpful working with the great legal team at Sidley to work through our corporate structuring needs. We wouldn't have been able to access this level of support without the pro bono program.”

— Claire Mongeau, Director, M-Shule
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INDIVIDUAL ASYLUM CASES

CLINIC WORK

Osei-Duro

Osei-Duro is a fashion design and production company based in Los Angeles and Accra, Ghana. Using traditional textile techniques to produce contemporary garments, the company aims to support local apparel industries and artisanal communities in Ghana to become more sustainable, while applying traditional techniques of local designers, such as hand dying and weaving.

Sidley is providing Osei-Duro with legal advice in handling contract breaches, debt collection, and related issues, as well as providing legal support concerning investment and other structural/financial changes.  

“We are a small business and we don’t have much power when it comes to dealing with larger clients. When a department store went bankrupt after placing a large order, Sidley helped us recoup lost revenue.”

— Maryanne Mathias, Founder and CEO of Osei-Duro

BioLite

Sidley represented BioLite in structuring and negotiating a secured credit facility repayable in carbon offset credits. Sidley helped BioLite review the privacy policy of their website, and provided assistance on a supply agreement with a prospective partner. 

Founded in Brooklyn in 2006, BioLite is an energy company that develops and manufactures breakthrough technologies to help customers in emerging markets cook, charge, and light life beyond the grid, empowering people to power themselves. The company sells portable grills, carry packs, kettle pots, camp and base stoves, power lights, energy bundles, nanogrid products, site lights, and flex lights. Its products are compatible with various devices, such as cell phones, smartphones, GPS, LED flashlights, headlamps, rechargeable battery packs, and other devices. 

BioLite reaches their customers through a robust and growing network of last-mile distribution partners who both market and offer consumer financing to their end consumers. In 2021, BioLite managed to provide safe and reliable energy to three million people across 23 countries in Asia and Africa.

“Sidley provided world class expertise to a complex transaction involving pre-financing of carbon credits from BioLite’s super clean-burning stoves. Sidley’s work was central to the success of the deal, resulting in clean energy access to some 1.2M people in East Africa.”

— Erik Wurster, VP, Environmental Markets and Sustainability, BioLite

StrongMinds

StrongMinds is a social enterprise that empowers impoverished African women, providing life-changing mental health services for women who suffer from debilitating mental illnesses such as depression. StrongMinds provides group talk therapy delivered by community health workers to provide a cost-effective solution to the depression epidemic in Africa.

“StrongMinds is working with Sidley on a number of projects that will ultimately help us provide vital mental health services to tens of thousands of individuals in Sub-Saharan Africa and in the United States. With Sidley’s help, we are taking critical steps to expand our operations into the United States, improve the agreements that govern our working relationships with our affiliate organizations, and protect our intellectual property. In 2021, we treated over 42,000 individuals affected by depression, with plans to serve 300,000 more in the next three years. Sidley’s support is crucial to helping us meet our ambitious goals.”

— Jennifer Bass, Manager, Brand, Content and Creative of StrongMinds

Babban Gona

Babban Gona offers an innovative technology platform and program to make farming more profitable for smallholder farmers in Northern Nigeria. By improving crop yield per hectare, reducing cost of production, and increasing unit price at market, Babban Gona doubles small farmers’ profitability. By turning unemployed youth at risk of conducting violent acts into successful agricultural entrepreneurs, Babban Gona contributes towards ending the downward spiral of youth violence in Nigeria.

Sidley has provided Babban Gona with legal support for fundraising activities, establishing a philanthropic fund based in the United States with the objective of providing a means for individuals and organizations to make funding donations relevant for Babban Gona’s work. Further, our lawyers have reviewed and amended intercreditor agreements, drafted and structured agreements for capital raising cycles and equity investment rounds, and represented Babban Gona in investor negotiations for The Raise Out of Poverty bond.

“Sidley’s Pro Bono Programme supported Babban Gona to establish a more cohesive structure among our lenders via our Intercreditor Agreement. With this structure, we have been able to raise tens of millions of dollars of financing to support hundreds of thousands of undeserved smallholders, improving their livelihoods and food security in Africa. The commitment and professionalism of Sidley’s lawyers has been fundamental to our business. We are grateful to have worked with a team that understands and responds quickly to the needs of a fast-growing company.”

— Adaeze Usoh, Head, Corporate Finance, Babban Gona

ATEC Biodigesters

ATEC produces, sells, and distributes the world’s first commercial biodigester that can be installed in any environment. Designed for last-mile farmers, each system converts animal, green, and kitchen waste into clean cooking gas and organic fertilizer for crops. Carbon positive and sustainable, ATEC’s products currently benefit thousands of families in Cambodia and Bangladesh.

Sidley has provided legal advice on the company’s corporate structure for international expansion, reviewed funding mechanisms for carbon financing, worked on contracts with international suppliers, and advised on structuring a new debt facility for pay-as-you-go services.

“Solving clean cooking is not easy. And that is why ATEC is tremendously grateful to Sidley for providing first-class pro bono legal services and advice, allowing us to continue providing sustainable, affordable, and accessible clean cooking products for base-of-pyramid households. The Sidley team worked professionally and tirelessly to support our issuance of convertible notes as we raised funds from investors in multiple jurisdictions with differing requirements and views. We could not be happier with Sidley’s Pro Bono Program.”

— Philip Barrow, CFO, ATEC Biodigesters
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