Pro Bono

2010-2011 Pro Bono Report

Pro Bono in the News

The Nelson Mullins Wills for Heroes Program

Cathy Rudisill, Chair
Pro Bono Committee

Norah Rogers
Pro Bono Coordinator

In the late 1980s, several partners, including Claude Scarborough, Dick Riley, and Steve Morrison, began considering the implementation of a formal pro bono program. In 1988, Stuart Andrews, a former statewide legal services director, was recruited to join Nelson Mullins, in part for the purpose of designing such a program. After studying several pro bono programs at leading firms around the country, Stuart proposed a program consisting of the following key elements: 1) a standing Pro Bono Committee to administer the program; 2) a goal of a minimum number of annual pro bono hours per attorney; 3) a program that took advantage of Nelson Mullins’ resources by encouraging large, “impact” pro bono projects; and 4) full billable and collections credit for pro bono matters meeting Nelson Mullins’ definition of “pro bono” and approved by the Pro Bono Committee. Nearly 20 years later, these remain the principal elements of our program.

Dick Riley was appointed as chair of the ad hoc Pro Bono Committee, which studied Stuart’s proposal and recommended it to the Executive Committee. The proposal was approved, and Ed Mullins served as chair of the first standing Pro Bono Committee. In 1990, George Cauthen joined Nelson Mullins to head its bankruptcy team, and, almost immediately, George became the leading advocate, both inside and outside Nelson Mullins, for the Pro Bono Program. Shortly afterward, Norah Rogers became the pro bono coordinator. In the years since, George, Norah, and a revolving list of committee chairs have led the program to recognition as one of the top pro bono programs in the country.

Nelson Mullins is committed to serving the public welfare. In 2013, the National Legal Aid & Defender Association selected Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP to receive a Beacon of Justice Award for providing pro bono representation to those unable to afford representation. In 2005, the firm received the John Minor Wisdom Public Service and Professionalism Award from the Litigation Section of the American Bar Association, and the William B. Spann, Jr. Award from the State Bar of Georgia, that organization’s highest pro bono honor.

In 1992, Nelson Mullins earned the ABA’s Pro Bono Publico Award, given annually to law firms for extraordinary contributions in providing legal services to the poor and disadvantaged. Nelson Mullins became a charter member of the Pro Bono Challenge in 1993, further evidence of its institutional commitment to pro bono services.

Nelson Mullins' pro bono program is administered by a firm wide Pro Bono Committee and a Pro Bono Coordinator.

The Firm is committed to handling complex pro bono litigation, corporate matters and legislative advocacy, as well as individual pro bono representation. The firm has sponsored externships and fellowships with several agencies, including the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, the South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center and the South Carolina Center for Capital Litigation.

In 1997, to mark its own 100th year of service, Nelson Mullins established five centennial fellowships to fund the work of attorneys focusing exclusively on children's issues.