Pro Bono
Pro Bono

Since its founding over 90 years ago, Covington has had a strong commitment to public service.  Over the years, the firm has received recognition both nationally and locally for its contributions to the legal needs of persons and organizations of limited means.

Much of Covington’s pro bono work reflects the firm's commitment to providing legal services to economically disadvantaged individuals and families in our surrounding communities.  Our six-month rotation program reflects this commitment by allowing lawyers and staff to work at each of three DC-based legal service organizations -- Neighborhood Legal Services Program, the Children’s Law Center, and Bread for the City.  Covington pioneered the loaned associate model over 45 years ago. Since its start in 1969, nearly 300 lawyers have participated in the program.

While many of Covington’s pro bono efforts are anchored in meeting local needs, the firm also has a long history of serving the most vulnerable clients and important causes, regardless of location.  The firm handles numerous death penalty and wrongful conviction cases across the US, as well as other important civil and human rights matters, including class action litigation and systemic reform projects related to homelessness, marriage equality, freedom of the press, juvenile justice, mental health, mass incarceration, and government-sanctioned discrimination.  Lawyers in all of Covington’s offices are also working to advance international human rights and global access to justice, advising hundreds of NGOs focused on improving access to food, water, healthcare, education, economic opportunity, peace, and justice in the world’s poorest regions.


  • The American Lawyer magazine has ranked Covington’s pro bono practice among the top five firms for 21 of the past 26 years, including ten years at number one.
  • Since 2003, the D.C. Circuit Judicial Conference has recognized those firms where at least 40% of the attorneys perform 50 or more pro bono hours during the previous year. Covington has achieved this so-called “40 at 50” benchmark each year.    
  • Law360 designated Covington as a 2015 Pro Bono Firm of the Year, noting that the firm has successfully combatted racial profiling, helped to end indiscriminate and mass government detention of Central American asylum-seekers, and contributed significantly to criminal justice reform.  Law360 previously named Covington as a Pro Bono Firm of the Year in 2010, 2012, 2013, and 2014.
  • D.C. Bar - Covington was selected as the winner of the District of Columbia Bar’s Pro Bono Law Firm of the Year Award for outstanding commitment to pro bono service (2015).
  • Washington Lawyers’ Committee - Outstanding Achievement Award (2015).
  • Prisoners' Legal Services of New York - Hon. J. Clarence Herlihy Award (2015).
  • American Lawyer - Global Pro Bono Dispute of the Year (2015).
  • Legal Services Corporation - Law Firm Pro Bono Award for commitment to pro bono in California (2015).
  • Support for Families of Children with Disabilities - Annual Service Award (2015).
  • National Legal Aid & Defender Association - Beacon of Justice Award (2011, 2013, and 2015).
  • National Law Journal - Covington was named to NLJ’s Pro Bono Hot List in 2013 and 2014.
  • Neighborhood Legal Services Program - Covington was presented with NLSP's inaugural Enduring Impact Award for longstanding commitment to legal services and NLSP as a pro bono and advocacy partner, donor of rotating associates for 45 years, and sponsor of the Howard Westwood fellowships (2014).
  • California Lawyer - Stanley Young received a California Lawyer of the Year (CLAY) Award for trial victory in a class action racial profiling suit (Melendres v. Arpaio), as co-counsel to the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project (2014).
  • B’nai B’rith International - Distinguished Achievement Award honoring Covington's dynamic leadership and demonstrated commitment to diversity and public service (2014).
  • Washington Lawyers' Committee - Outstanding Achievement Awards for work with the Criminal Justice and Disability Rights Projects (2014).
  • Up2Us - Legacy Award (awarded to Paul Tagliabue) (2014).
  • Voices for a Second Chance - Charles A. Horsky Civic Leadership Award (awarded to firm chairman Timothy Hester and public service committee chair Alan Pemberton) (2014).
  • Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia - Klepper Prize for Volunteer Excellence (awarded to Stephanie Doebler) (2014).
  • Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center - Access to Justice Award (2014).
  • Center for Constitutional Rights - Legal Partnership Award for successful challenge to NYPD stop-and-frisk policies (2014).
  • Law Students in Court - Celebration of Service Award (awarded to Tom Williamson) (2014).
  • Connecticut Fair Housing Center - George J. and Patricia K. Ritter Pro Bono Award for fair housing work (2014).
  • DC Appleseed - Pro Bono Partner Award - for 20 years of support since the organization's founding (2014).
  • GlaxoSmithKline Litigation Summit - Public Service Firm of the Year (2014).
  • National Law Journal "Champions" - Three Covington lawyers have been honored as "Champions" for upholding the profession’s core values through public service, pro bono efforts, and advocacy for civil liberties - Robert Long (2012); S. William Livingston (2011); Anthony Herman (2010).
  • The Justice & Diversity Center - Outstanding Volunteer in Public Service Award (2013, 2014, 2015).
  • National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty - Pro Bono Service Award (2012).
  • Legal Community Against Violence - Pro Bono Law Firm of the Year Award (2012, 2011).
  • Chinese American Citizens Alliance - Champion of Justice Award - for facilitating the passage of legislation expressing regret for the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and other legislation that severely restricted the immigration of persons of Chinese descent (2012).
  • Innocence Project New Orleans - Outstanding Volunteer Counsel - for work to recover compensation for IPNO’s exonerated clients (2012).
  • Kids in Need of Defense - Allegiance Award (2012).
  • District Alliance for Safe Housing - Keystone Award (2012).
  • Sanctuary for Families - Above & Beyond Pro Bono Achievement Award (2011).
  • United States District Court for the District of Columbia - Daniel M. Gribbon Pro Bono Advocacy Award (2010).
  • Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence Legal Action Project - 20th Anniversary Honor Roll (2009).
  • DC Mayor Fenty - Community Service Award (2009).
  • The Nature Conservancy - Lifetime Achievement Volunteer Award (2008).

Recent Highlights


  • Covington won asylum for a prominent Iranian journalist.  In 2005, an Iranian court had sentenced our client to death for his outspoken support of press freedom and women's rights.  The sentence was reduced to three years on appeal.  After serving one year, he was diagnosed with a serious illness, which prison authorities ignored for months before finally granting him leave to seek treatment.  While on leave, he secured a US entrance visa and fled to the United States.  With Covington's assistance, the client applied for and obtained asylum based on the persecution he suffered on account of his political beliefs.  Covington also successfully obtained humanitarian parole for his wife, who had fled to Turkey but was denied a US visa.  Humanitarian parole is a rare form of discretionary relief, which permits a foreign national to travel to and remain in the United States.  The Covington team lobbied various Washington officials to establish that, in this case, there were unusual circumstances that warranted a grant of humanitarian parole.
  • Though Iraq has faded somewhat from the news, between one and two million Iraqis remain refugees.  Often fleeing from death threats by armed groups, many escaped to neighboring countries such as Syria, where they have tried to navigate the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) refugee and resettlement process without access to counsel.  Working with the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project at Yale Law School, several Covington attorneys are assisting three Iraqi refugees to appeal USCIS’s decision to reject their applications though they were deemed meritorious by the UN Refugee Agency.

Unaccompanied Immigrant Children

  • The firm represents undocumented children who have escaped, often alone, abusive situations in their home countries.  Through the KIND program (Kids in Need of Defense), our attorneys help children remain in this country by seeking various forms of immigration relief, including SIJS (Special Immigrant Juvenile Status).

Children & Education

  • Covington provides general corporate and employment advice to RUGMARK Foundation USA, a nonprofit organization working to end child labor in the carpet industry in South Asia.
  • A favorable settlement that the firm obtained resulted in reforms to a North Carolina school system designed to prevent abusive treatment of special needs students.
  • In a separate matter, the firm is advocating on behalf of incarcerated special needs youth in Maryland who are not receiving the rehabilitative special education services mandated by state law.
Highlights in Other Areas
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Kelly D. Voss
Pro Bono Counsel
+1 202 662 6658

Sharmaine Heng
Pro Bono Manager - DC Office
+1 202 662 6513

Andrea Fitanides
Pro Bono Manager - CA Office
+1 415 955 6897

Allison Harris
Pro Bono Manager - NY Office
+1 212 379 8161