Holland & Knight Receives the Philadelphia Bar Foundation's 2023 Pro Bono Award for Asylum Work
PHILADELPHIA (November 16, 2023) – The Philadelphia Bar Foundation honored Holland & Knight with its 2023 Pro Bono Award at the organization's Access to Justice Awards Ceremony on November 9. The firm was recognized for its remarkable efforts to provide pro bono services in support of Afghan asylum seekers.
The Pro Bono Award of the Philadelphia Bar Foundation is given annually to a Philadelphia law firm or corporate legal department that performs outstanding volunteer efforts in providing legal services to those in need. The award recipient demonstrates commitment to the development of pro bono legal services in the region and contributes significantly to innovative approaches to the delivery of legal services.
In a video message at the event, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro lauded Holland & Knight. "When our city saw an influx of asylum seekers last year, the Holland & Knight team stepped up, recruiting 45 lawyers and support staff from 14 offices around the country to work on a dozen individual asylum cases," he said. "I'm proud to congratulate tonight's honorees for their service to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. You have made our city and our Commonwealth proud."
Holland & Knight's Afghan asylum team was formed in March 2022 after Church World Service (CWS) and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) reached out to Holland & Knight's Philadelphia office in need of substantial pro bono support for Afghans who were evacuated in August 2021 as part of Operation Allies Refuge.
For the past year and a half, more than 130 attorneys and staff (including paralegals and administrative support professionals) throughout the firm have been helping these refugees apply for asylum in the United States. The team, which is coordinated by Partners Leonard Bernstein, Amy McVeigh and Tracy Quinn and Associate Katie Princivalle, currently has more than 40 Afghan clients from CWS and the Nationalities Service Center (NSC). Each case involves extensive interviews with the client, most often with the use of an interpreter; the development of an extremely detailed and comprehensive application, often with affidavits and exhibits; and accompanying the client to Newark, New Jersey, for an in-person interview with an immigration official. So far, the team has successfully earned asylum for 12 of its clients.
"Holland & Knight staff have truly taken to these cases, and they have represented our mutual clients just as zealously as they would any other client that they are representing through the course of their work at the firm," said Griffin Durling, a representative from CWS.
"Doing pro bono service like this gives you a perspective that you're not going to get anywhere else on the value of lawyering, the value of helping people and what's going on our world," said Leonard Bernstein, who serves as the Public & Charitable Services Partner of Holland & Knight's Philadelphia office. "We are sincerely grateful to the Philadelphia Bar Foundation, its trustees and staff for recognizing Holland & Knight and validating the importance of this work. We are also grateful to organizations and people on the front lines in the immigration world. They are the true heroes."