Changing lives, supporting a just society

Kirkland is committed to upholding justice and advancing civil rights by providing legal services without charge to those who cannot afford counsel. In 2021, Kirkland attorneys and staff devoted more than 122,000 hours to representing organizations and individuals in pro bono matters. Working on these important — sometimes life-altering — cases improves clients’ lives, strengthens communities and deepens our own professional experience.

What we stand for

We believe in prioritizing pro bono work to improve access to justice and advance civil rights for individuals and communities in need. We serve our pro bono clients on a range of important topics, including civil rights, criminal appeals, disability rights, discrimination, immigration, voting rights, education and veterans’ benefits, among others. To advance this critical work, we will:


We will devote time, energy, experience, financial support and compassion to people and organizations that cannot afford counsel or that seek to protect civil and human rights.



We will capitalize on our scale and reach within the legal community to continue developing large-scale projects and opportunities for our lawyers — as well as thousands of attorneys from other firms — to make a meaningful impact on the most pressing issues of the day.


Meet the moment.

As the world changes, we will remain agile, creatively responding to new challenges as they arise.

Meet the moment.

Aiding Our Afghan Allies

On August 30, 2021, the last of the U.S. military forces in Afghanistan withdrew after more than two decades in the country. In the weeks leading up to the withdrawal, the Taliban quickly moved to overthrow the Afghan government, posing an immediate threat to Afghans who worked for or aided the U.S., among others. By May 2022, nearly 85,000 Afghan refugees had arrived in the U.S., some with nothing more than the clothes on their back and an uncertain future ahead of them.

First-of-its-kind clinic

In the midst of this crisis, Kirkland partnered with the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) and Lawyers for Good Government (L4GG) to launch an original program addressing the urgent need for immigration legal support for Afghan refugees.

IRAP — the premier organization in the U.S. focused on assisting refugees outside of the country — provided legal experts who trained attorneys from across Kirkland’s U.S. offices on immigration law, cultural competency and how to work with interpreters. L4GG designed and provided the infrastructure to run a large-scale remote legal clinic.

In February 2022, approximately 60 Kirkland lawyers, five IRAP attorneys, and several additional mentors from Centro Legal de la Raza and PARS Equality Center held the virtual clinic, assisting nearly 100 eligible Afghan refugees with completing adjustment of status (I-485) and asylum (I-589) applications. Participation across the Firm included lawyers ranging from first-year associates to the highest levels of our leadership. The circumstances of the clinic’s clients moved the teams so much that many agreed to take on their clients' immigration matters for full representation.

For Kirkland IP litigation associate Tareq Alosh, the experience held deep personal significance.

Tareq Alosh

Kirkland attorney

I am a grateful beneficiary of immigration. Knowing that I could help Afghan refugees … was hugely motivating and fulfilling on both a personal and professional level.

“I am a grateful beneficiary of immigration,” said Tareq, who took on two additional asylum cases after completing the application process for a client during the clinic. “Without a doubt, I would not have had the incredible educational and professional opportunities I did if members of my family were not fortunate enough to immigrate to the U.S. Knowing that I could help Afghan refugees by doing what I already do every day — providing legal counsel — was hugely motivating and fulfilling on both a personal and professional level.”

Some of the interpreters at the clinic had themselves escaped from Afghanistan, and they jumped at the opportunity to help others resettle in the U.S.

“This clinic brought back a lot of emotions for me,” said Bilal Sarwary, a BBC journalist who worked as a translator at the clinic. Bilal, along with his parents, wife and infant daughter, were evacuated from Afghanistan in August 2021. “My motivation was: I can give back. I loved being able to serve as a bridge between Americans and Afghans. This clinic proves that humanity is alive. It gives me hope.”

Based on the success of this clinic, Kirkland, IRAP and L4GG hope to run or participate in similar clinics to help more Afghans achieve immigration stability in America.

Nicole Washington

Kirkland attorney

“There are few opportunities you actually have to immediately and materially change someone’s life for the better. I’m lucky to have some training and skills that could be put to use for an initiative like this.”

Evacuating and empowering women

As the Taliban rapidly took over Kabul in August 2021, members of the Asian University for Women’s (AUW) Board of Directors called an emergency meeting. After more than a year of focusing on how to streamline virtual education and give their students access to vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic, the board shifted its focus to their Afghan students and alumnae whose lives were now under additional threat.

Founded in 2008 in Bangladesh, AUW seeks to educate and empower women leaders in Asia through a liberal arts and sciences education. This mission resonated with Kirkland investment funds partner Nicole Washington, who joined AUW’s New York board in 2020.

“The majority of women who attend AUW end up securing jobs in the private or public sectors of their home countries, while around 25% go on to attend graduate school,” Nicole said. “It’s fulfilling to be a part of an organization that gives access to education and opportunity to these extremely intelligent and motivated women who might not otherwise have it.”

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, AUW’s Afghan students were learning remotely in their home country when the Taliban began its takeover. The board’s emergency meeting discussed the ways in which they could evacuate AUW students, who as women pursuing education were considered potential targets for the Taliban. The board succeeded in helping nearly 150 AUW students and alumnae evacuate to the U.S. Once in America, students were transferred to various universities, including Arizona State University, Brown University and Cornell University.

But getting AUW women out of Afghanistan was only half the battle. Figuring out how to allow them to stay in the U.S. was another challenge. Nicole enlisted others at Kirkland to join her in a multi-firm initiative to help students find a legal path to residing in the U.S. The Firm agreed to represent 10 women, helping to screen them for eligibility using an interpreter, fill out their paperwork, prepare them for their interview and hearing, and attend the hearings with them.

“There are few opportunities you actually have to immediately and materially change someone’s life for the better,” Nicole said. “I’m lucky to have some training and skills that could be put to use for an initiative like this.”

In an additional effort to protect Afghan women, AUW has committed to recruiting and enrolling up to 500 new Afghan students over the next several years.

"I’m a big believer in the idea that poverty cannot be eliminated in a community without first increasing opportunities for women within that community,” Nicole said. “At AUW, we do just that while also keeping these women safe.”

Partnering with The New York Times

After the Taliban seized control of Kabul, U.S. media outlets arranged harrowing exits for their Afghan employees and their families. Kirkland, in coordination with The New York Times and other law firms, agreed to represent two former Times employees in their efforts to obtain asylum in the U.S. The two cases revealed the great personal impact of the Taliban takeover on the everyday lives of Afghans — as well as the power of pro bono work.

One client, Zamir, the longtime gardener for the Times bureau in Kabul, originally took the job to support his family and finish high school, learning the necessary skills under the tutelage of the bureau chief. A second client, Rohullah, worked as a driver for the bureau for seven years before rising to become bureau manager. In December 2021, the Times published an article about the escape of Zamir, Rohullah and their respective families.

A source of hope for Afghan allies

Times of crisis often require the utmost flexibility. IP litigation associate Bruce Ratain credits Kirkland for leaning into this quality to make a real difference in the lives of Afghans seeking asylum in America.

During and since the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, informal groups of veterans, active duty service members, former government employees and civil servants have coordinated the evacuation and resettlement of Afghans who worked for or supported the U.S. military — an effort that has come to be known as Digital Dunkirk, a reference to the famous evacuation of Allied troops from the beach of Dunkirk, France, in the early days of World War II. One of Bruce’s close friends, an active duty member of the military participating in Digital Dunkirk, recognized the need for legal advocacy and asked Bruce if he might be able to help. Bruce and other Kirkland associates and partners vetted a number of potential cases of Afghans seeking a path to America, and agreed to take on several of them pro bono.

“The Kirkland pro bono team is nimble and dedicated to devoting resources toward taking on the pressing topics of the day.”

— Bruce Ratain, Kirkland attorney

The cases involve helping Afghans receive a Special Immigrant Visa, available to those who have worked as translators, interpreters or other professionals employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government in Afghanistan or Iraq.

The Kirkland team assists with employment verification, the visa application process and the arrangement of embassy interviews, the last of which has proved especially challenging since the U.S. suspended its operations at the Afghan embassy in August 2021. The full verification and application process can take many months, and most of these cases remain open.

“One of the most difficult parts of the process is helping clients manage their expectations of how long things take and wishing there was more we could do,” Bruce said. “But the clients know that we, along with their other contacts in the U.S., continue to fight for them. I think that’s meaningful.”

The complex political and logistical realities of the withdrawal from Afghanistan have provided no shortage of challenges for Bruce and the other Kirkland attorneys. They can communicate with clients only through messaging apps or social media, and clients frequently change phone numbers and physical locations due to safety concerns. But the hard work has already paid off, with Bruce receiving news that one of his clients had arrived safely in New York.

“These are wonderful humans who have done amazing, selfless things,” Bruce said. “We would be lucky to have them here in the U.S.”


hours of pro bono work by attorneys and staff in 2021


in donations and commitments to organizations focused on civil rights and justice in 2021


pro bono matters in 2021


pro bono awards over the past three years

Better conditions for immigrant youth

Safeguarding voter rights

Citizenship at last

Protecting children in foster care

Better conditions for immigrant youth

A Kirkland team led by litigation of counsel Steve Patton partnered with the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) on a 2018 federal class action lawsuit, arguing that the U.S. government’s placement of 18-year-old migrants in adult detention facilities violated the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act.

In 2020, the D.C. District Court ruled for the plaintiffs on all liability issues and, in 2021, entered the final judgment and permanent injunction.

“Through the hard work of Kirkland and NIJC, thousands of immigrant teenagers who would have been detained for weeks or months in county jails and ICE detention facilities are being released to family members and other sponsors,” Patton said.

Safeguarding voter rights

The right to vote is a cornerstone of American democracy. Recognizing the importance of meaningful access to the ballot box, Kirkland has for more than 15 years teamed up with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law on its signature Election Protection program.

Over the years, thousands of Kirkland attorneys and clients have worked in the field or at call centers run out of Kirkland offices to answer voter questions and address legal issues arising at polling places in various states. These issues range from missing registration and identification requirements to broken voting machines, menacing conduct, intimidation and harassment.

Citizenship at last

At Kirkland, we routinely help vulnerable individuals navigate complex immigration proceedings to secure a safer future in the U.S. Our work for Mr. P, who successfully obtained U.S. citizenship after a decade-long struggle, is a prime example. Though Mr. P had entered the U.S. unlawfully, he was a domestic violence survivor who cooperated in the prosecution of an abuser, and also qualified for U Visa status.

Kirkland began representing Mr. P through a referral by Sanctuary for Families. Over the years, the team has assisted him in obtaining temporary legal residency, terminating a prior deportation order and securing a green card. In 2020, the Firm helped Mr. P with his naturalization application and prepared him for his interview and, in December 2021, he was sworn in as a U.S. citizen. The hard-won outcome allows Mr. P to finally settle near family living in the U.S. 

Protecting children in foster care

A Kirkland team led by litigation partner Aaron Marks teamed up with A Better Childhood and Indiana Disability Rights to represent children in Indiana foster care in a putative civil rights class action lawsuit. The team alleges that the Indiana child welfare system fails to protect children and, in many cases, inflicts further trauma upon them by failing to provide appropriate placements and support services.

For example, one of the 10 named plaintiff children has cycled through 10 different foster homes and a residential center during his 11 years in the Indiana foster care system. He has also had nine different family case managers in that time.

“Pursuing this case is an opportunity to hopefully make a difference in the lives of our clients and countless other children who will require services from the state in the future,” Aaron said.

Kirkland and its pro bono partners succeeded in defeating a motion to dismiss the suit in May 2020, but the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed that decision in June 2022. Kirkland is working to re-initiate the lawsuit based on recent favorable case law decisions in other federal courts around the country. 

Pursuing global justice