Winners Announced for PILnet’s 2011 European Pro Bono Awards
Dietmar Knopp, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Dewey & LeBoeuf Honored for Pro Bono Impact
PILnet announced the winners of its prestigious European Pro Bono Awards on 18 November during the closing session of the 2011 European Pro Bono Forum in Berlin. Dietmar Knopp received the European Award for Extraordinary Contribution to the Development of Pro Bono Culture and the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights teamed with the Warsaw office of Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP were lauded with the European Award for Partnership in the Public Interest.
Knopp, a partner at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP in Frankfurt, has been instrumental in mobilizing leading German legal professionals to help establish and expand pro bono practice. One of the founders of the influential Frankfurt Pro Bono Roundtable, he tirelessly worked to build support for the nascent pro bono movement in his country and helped legitimize it in the eyes of others in the field.
Receiving his award from Lord Phillips of Sudbury, last year’s recipient, Knopp reflected on the deep gratification of pro bono work. Through pro bono, he said, lawyers can “use our skills and experience to promote the public good, to create values in a world where values seem to be submerged by profits and material goals. With pro bono, we have a chance to make this somewhat inhuman world more human.”
This year PILnet’s European Pro Bono Awards also recognized the vital role played by partnerships between NGOs and lawyers. The new award’s inaugural winners—the Helsinki Foundation and Dewey & LeBoeuf—have worked together in Warsaw to establish a long-running collaborative relationship that strengthens the impact of the Foundation’s mission and provides crucial support for the development of pro bono in Poland.
In particular, the award recognizes a case developed by the two organizations—“a rare example of a ‘happy end’ for a human rights case,” said Adam Bodnar, head of the Foundation’s legal division— that led to a successful challenge to police regulations allowing the automatic discharge of HIV-positive officers.
“It should be well understood that creating the culture of human rights and the rule of law in Poland requires a joint effort of the Polish legal community acting as a whole,” Bodnar emphasized. “This complex machinery of a partnership between NGOs and law firms in the public interest—it really works. Let us hope that such partnerships will flourish and will expand to cover less privileged victims.”
“One of the most remarkable developments in the field of law over the past decade, in Europe and around the globe, has been the rapid expansion of pro bono,” said PILnet’s executive director, Edwin Rekosh. “PILnet’s European Pro Bono Awards honor lawyers and NGOs that have played major roles in strengthening pro bono in the region and have made professional and personal commitments to extending access to justice across the continent.”