Pro Bono Partnership Celebrates 20th Anniversary at Record-Breaking Fundraising Gala

On October 12, 2017 Pro Bono Partnership (the Partnership) celebrated at its 20th Anniversary Gala with more than 600 supporters – including volunteer lawyers, law firm and corporate executives, and clients – at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City. The evening focused on the organization’s 20 years of providing free legal services to nonprofits in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York.

NBC News Senior Investigative and Legal Correspondent Cynthia McFadden hosted the event where the Partnership honored Jami Wintz McKeon, Chair of Morgan Lewis, and the Legal Department at Merck & Co., Inc. with 2017 Champion Awards. Ms. McKeon is a relentless supporter of pro bono service and has spearheaded the pro bono culture at Morgan Lewis. This year, the firm had 100% attorney participation globally in pro bono matters with 97% completing 20+ hours of pro bono service. Ashley Watson, Senior Vice President, Chief Ethics & Compliance Officer at Merck & Co., Inc. accepted the award on behalf of the Merck Legal Department. Merck is a longtime supporter of the Pro Bono Partnership mission. Merck attorneys embody the pro bono ethos, and the New Jersey legal team ranks among the most active Pro Bono Partnership volunteers. The evening’s awards included a video spotlight of recent nonprofits assisted by Morgan Lewis and Merck volunteer lawyers, which can be viewed here: (Morgan Lewis) and (Merck)

Special 20th Anniversary Awards included the Founders Award presented to the Partnership’s first Executive Director, Richard Hobish, the organization’s corporate sponsor, General Electric Company and community partner, WESFACCA. Mr. Hobish spoke on behalf of the Founders Award recipients and shared the vision, challenges and successes that shaped Pro Bono Partnership’s early years.

The milestone celebration also included the inaugural Lifetime Pro Bono Award, presented to Hon. Jonathan Lippman (Ret.), Chief Judge of New York. Alphonso David, Chief Counsel to Governor Andrew Cuomo, presented the award, and highlighted Judge Lippman’s commitment to achieving greater access to justice and his unyielding pursuit of expanding pro bono representation in New York State.

The evening’s celebration also included special guest speaker Valerie Traoré, Executive Director at Food Bank of South Jersey, a Pro Bono Partnership client. Ms. Traoré’s impassioned story of how Partnership and volunteer attorneys saved the Food Bank $10,000 from just one matter, resolved with a contract review, underscored the importance of pro bono work and its impact on communities.

Dinner Chairs David Leitch, Global General Counsel, Bank of America; Ashley Watson, Merck & Co., Inc. and Gala Committee Chair; and Richard Walker, Partner, King & Spalding, LLP, helped to make the celebration the most successful fundraiser in Pro Bono Partnership history, raising $2,020,000 in ticket sales, sponsorships, and a pledge drive and live auction at the event. The funds raised make it possible for the Partnership to provide more than $9.4 million in free legal services to nonprofit clients annually.

Pro Bono Partnership celebrated its 20th Anniversary on October 12, 2017 at Cipriani in New York City.

More than 600 Pro Bono Partnership supporters attended the 20th Anniversary Gala at Cipriani in New York City.

NBC News Senior Investigative & Legal Correspondent Cynthia McFadden was a dynamic and engaging host for the evening’s festivities.

Valerie Traoré, Executive Director at Food Bank of South Jersey, described the importance of pro bono assistance and what the Partnership’s legal services mean for her organization.

The inaugural Pro Bono Partnership Lifetime Pro Bono Award was presented to Hon. Jonathan Lippman (Ret.) by Alphonso David, Chief Counsel to Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The Pro Bono Partnership 20th Anniversary Gala honored Jami Wintz McKeon, Chair, Morgan Lewis and the Merck & Co., Inc., Legal Department with 2017 Champion Awards.

Pictured from left to right: Richard Walker, Partner, King & Spalding and Gala Committee Chair; Jami McKeon; Nancy Eberhardt, Interim Executive Director, Pro Bono Partnership; Ashley Watson, Sr. VP, Chief Ethics & Compliance Officer, Merck & Co., Inc. and Gala Dinner Chair; David Leitch, Global General Counsel, Bank of America and Gala Dinner Chair; Mark Nordstrom, Chairman of the Board, Pro Bono Partnership

More About Pro Bono Partnership:

For 20 years, Pro Bono Partnership ( has provided free transactional legal services to nonprofits in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York. The Partnership annually recruits and mobilizes hundreds of attorneys from major corporations and law firms to donate their time and talent on behalf of its nonprofit clients. Access to expert, free legal counsel enables those nonprofit clients to more efficiently feed the hungry, house the homeless, promote the arts, protest the environment and provide essential programs to our communities.

Media Contact

Mindi Lund, Director of Marketing, 914-328-0674 x339,