Three outstanding attorneys from the Greater DC area will be recognized for their selfless service to immigrant women and girls fleeing extreme gender-based violence in the United States.
Phillip Chong of Duane Morris LLP and Scott Cockerham and Chris Lemming of Ballard Spahr LLP have been named 2015 Pro Bono Attorneys of the Year by Tahirih Justice Center, a national non-profit that protects immigrant women and girls who refuse to be victims of gender-based violence through free legal and social services, public policy advocacy, and training and education.
The attorneys are part of Tahirih’s Pro Bono Network, which is made up of more than 1,800 attorneys from 500 top law firms across the country who are committed to helping women and girls flee gender-based human rights abuses, including rape, female genital mutilation, domestic violence, human trafficking, honor crimes, and forced marriage. Attorneys in the network help survivors of violence obtain the legal status they are entitled to under U.S. law. In partnership with Tahirih, they ensure clients receive high-quality legal services at no cost.
By leveraging the donated services of attorneys and other professionals, Tahirih is able to serve hundreds of immigrant women and girls every year and turn every $1 donated into $5 of lifesaving impact. In 2014 alone, Tahirih provided approximately 600 women and girls in the Greater DC and Baltimore area with free legal and social services so that they could rebuild their lives in the wake of violence.
“Simply put, Tahirih would not exist without the dedicated service of individuals like Phillip, Scott, and Chris. We are so grateful for their service and for the service of every attorney in our network,” said Heather L. Taylor, Director of Tahirih Greater DC.
The attorneys will be honored at Tahirih’s 18th Annual Gala, Saving Lives, Celebrating Courage, on Tuesday, April 14 at Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, DC.
Maryland Pro Bono Attorney of the Year
Phillip Chong of Duane Morris LLP
Phillip Chong is an attorney in the Baltimore office of Duane Morris LLP, where he practices in the area of complex litigation with a focus on lawyer professional liability and construction litigation. He is also a member of Duane Morris’ Baltimore Office Inclusion Committee and is interested in the impact of implicit bias on the legal system.
In 2014, Chong provided lifesaving legal services to a survivor of domestic violence. With his advocacy, his client received protection under the Violence Against Women Act, a work permit, and a pathway to a green card. Chong also helped coordinate multiple U visa trainings in 2014 for fellow attorneys in Maryland.
“My parents emigrated from South Korea to the United States in pursuit of their American dream: a simple and selfless dream to provide their children with the best opportunity for a better life. I am a product of their dream. Tahirih’s mission inspires me because it helps safeguard so many others’ American dreams, enabling this and future generations of immigrants to achieve equality and opportunity in this great country,” Chong said.
DC Pro Bono Attorneys of the Year
Scott Cockerham and Chris Lemming of Ballard Spahr LLP
Scott Cockerham and Chris Lemming of Ballard Spahr LLP teamed up in 2014 to provide life-changing legal services to a young, single mother fleeing domestic violence at the hands of a convicted sex trafficker. The case was especially challenging, but Cockerham and Ballard never gave up and the young mother and her children are expected to receive visas this fall, marking a critical step on their journey to safety and stability.
Cockerham is a tax associate at Ballard Spahr LLP. He coordinates a cross-office U Visa Practice Group that assists immigrant victims of serious crimes in petitioning for immigration relief under the Violence Against Women Act and has recruited and trained U visa volunteers.
Tahirih’s mission to protect and empower women inspires his service.
“Their work is transformative in the lives of the individuals that it touches directly, but also has a profound impact on wider communities as these girls and women move forward,” he said. “Working with Tahirih has been a powerful and rewarding experience for me and my colleagues. I have witnessed first-hand that the work they do matters deeply to the people they serve.”
Lemming is a public finance and tax attorney, focusing on bond issuances and tax credit transactions. He also represents non-profit organizations in obtaining favorable tax-exemption determination from the IRS and in exempt organization management.
“Without the efforts of Tahirih Justice Center, [immigrant survivors of violence] often remain on the margins of society,” Lemming said. “The staff are amazing people who work tirelessly to meet the needs of their clients. They also provide excellent help to the volunteer attorneys who are often new to this kind of legal work.”
PRESS CONTACT: Marlena Hartz, Communications Manager, 571-282-6193, MarlenaH@Tahirih.org