Through our dedicated community outreach and pro bono program – Gibbons Cares – the firm donates more than $1 million annually, as well as extensive volunteer service and pro bono legal representation, in support of those communities in which the firm has offices.
Community outreach and corporate responsibility are firm-wide values, and Gibbons Cares encourages employee feedback and project leadership, fostering the sense of teamwork necessary to achieve exceptional results.
And while we are committed to the philosophy of “doing good while doing well,” we are lucky enough to have clients who share that philosophy, and we are proud to partner with them on many of our outreach projects.
Gibbons Cares includes our two highly regarded, active pro bono programs – the Gibbons Cares pro bono platform and the John J. Gibbons Fellowship in Public Interest and Constitutional Law – through which Gibbons attorneys tackle issues of national and statewide magnitude while simultaneously devoting serious volunteer attention to our local communities. While we have long sought out and accepted volunteer federal and state court appointments in criminal, family, immigration, probate, and virtually every other court, recently, we have significantly expanded our commitment, with the number of pro bono matters opened reaching new heights, along with the number of firm attorneys dedicating more than 20 hours a year to pro bono work.
Numerous organizations have recognized Gibbons for our commitment to the community. The Gibbons Pro Bono Program and Gibbons Fellowship have also earned numerous honors over the years.
Top 20 Pro Bono Firms of the Year
New Jersey State Bar Association (NJSBA)
Pro Bono Award (Individual), for Mary Frances Palisano, the firm’s Pro Bono Coordinator
Pro Bono Award (Firm)
New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA)
Award for Excellence in Public Service
Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey (CIANJ)
Champion of Good Works Award
Impactful Good Works Award
Volunteer Lawyers for Justice
Pro Bono Service Award
Community Health Law Project
Ann Klein Advocate Award
New Jersey Monthly
Great Oak Awards finalist
Corporate Citizen of the Year Award
New Jersey Law Journal
“Lawyer of the Year” Recognition for Lawrence S. Lustberg, Director of the Gibbons Fellowship
Pro Bono Projects
While Gibbons has long sought out and accepted volunteer federal and state court appointments, we place particular focus in a few key areas of need. In doing so, Gibbons works with nonprofit organizations and often corporate partners, including Gibbons clients, to widen the scope of our outreach.
Expungement and Reentry: Working with Volunteer Lawyers for Justice (VLJ), a nonprofit that provides free legal services for economically disadvantaged people throughout the state, Gibbons attorneys help clients with prior nonviolent criminal convictions to get those charges expunged from their records, better positioning them for future employment, housing, and other opportunities. A criminal record, often for a relatively minor crime committed at a fairly young age, can significantly limit a person’s ability to get a fresh start. Most expungement clients go on to land employment, and the results are life-altering – in many cases, enabling families to move to more suitable housing and better provide for their children. The Gibbons pro bono platform also helps clients referred by VLJ’s RELESE program, which aids clients reentering society after completing prison sentences.
Domestic Violence: Gibbons works with Partners for Women and Justice (PWJ), a nonprofit representing female victims of domestic violence in northern New Jersey, many of whom would otherwise have to go into family court without legal representation and without knowing their rights under the law, and some of whom are still dealing with abusive relationships and financial dependence on abusers. Gibbons attorneys assist clients with the many legal issues they face after being victimized, including obtaining final restraining orders, as well as child support, visitation, and/or custody matters. Gibbons attorney volunteers initially meet with clients to strategize, draft documents, and prepare for hearings, then continue to represent them as their cases work their way through the system – for example, by filing motions and conducting hearings on behalf of clients.
Veterans’ Legal Program: Due to the many barriers, including legal issues, faced by military personnel when they return to civilian life, Gibbons teamed up with VLJ and corporate partner PSE&G to create the Military Personnel/Veterans Legal Assistance Project (MLAP), now called the Veterans’ Legal Program. The Veterans’ Legal Program, the first of its kind in New Jersey, assists military personnel and veterans with driver’s license restoration, criminal record expungement, and child support modification. We work with clients in this area through legal clinics, which continue to be very successful, even as they have become virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Asylum/Unaccompanied Minors: Gibbons attorneys handle asylum cases, often through the nonprofit organization Human Rights First, which involve helping refugees who are fleeing persecution to access social services and legal protections in the United States, addressing issues that range from political persecution to women’s rights. We also take on cases involving children, working with Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), which protects unaccompanied children who enter the U.S. immigration system alone and ensures they have representation in immigration court.
As just one example of the critical pro bono work Gibbons does in this area, the firm was among those honored recently with a “Legal Leadership” award by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Jersey for representation of Indonesian Christian families in the central part of the state, in one of the most influential immigrants’ rights cases during the Trump administration. When Indonesian Christian families were targeted for deportation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after years of peaceful, productive residence under ICE supervision, the Seton Hall Center for Social Justice and law firms that included Gibbons assisted the families in reopening their asylum cases after a federal class action decision gave them that right. For example, the recent rise of extremist Islamic groups and intensified anti-Christian sentiment in Indonesia pose enhanced risks of persecution to Indonesian Christian families in the U.S. who are facing deportation; Gibbons attorneys handled the case of a couple who fled persecution for their evangelical Christian faith in the 1990s.
Trafficking: Through our close partnership with VLJ, Gibbons attorneys handle trafficking cases on a pro bono basis, helping women who have been trafficked to have their criminal records resolved. VLJ recently recognized a Gibbons attorney as its “Volunteer of the Month” for her commitment to the nonprofit’s Human Trafficking Victims’ Legal Assistance Program, through which she and other Gibbons attorneys have successfully resolved outstanding warrants, dismissed municipal matters, and petitioned for vacatur and expungement relief for survivors under New Jersey’s Human Trafficking Prevention, Protection, and Treatment Act.
Tenants’ Rights: Gibbons attorneys handle numerous landlord/tenant disputes on behalf of tenants, given how particularly problematic housing issues are in the various urban areas in which our offices are located. Many tenants do not receive the relief to which they are entitled because they do not know the remedies that are available to them. Some of the more common issues our clients face involve, for example, eviction, relocation, and property condemnation. In addition, the COVID-19 crisis has given rise to new and different ways of representing these clients. As landlord-tenant trials are currently suspended in New Jersey, creating a backlog of more than 30,000 pending eviction cases, courts are beginning to move forward with virtual settlement conferences statewide. Gibbons will work with VLJ to provide legal representation to clients in those conferences.
Special Education: The Gibbons Cares pro bono program represents children with disabilities who have been denied certain special education services. Understanding and navigating the complexities of the special education system can be a confusing and overwhelming experience for parents of children with disabilities, and the system can be even more daunting for parents who cannot afford legal representation to assist them. Through VLJ’s Children’s Representation Program, Gibbons attorneys counsel parents and guardians in their efforts to secure the necessary educational services, support, and accommodations to which their children are entitled as a matter of New Jersey and federal law. One client shared, “I appreciate the time and effort put into my case. It did not matter that it was Pro Bono. My attorney assured me that she would put in as many hours as needed to bring my Due Process petition to a positive resolution. She put the best interests of my child first and foremost.”
“Small Businesses Need Us”: In 2020, Gibbons launched the firm’s newest pro bono effort, a partnership with the “Small Businesses Need Us” program, an initiative of the Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership (IFEL) to assist women and minority small business owners impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. IFEL created Small Businesses Need Us in response to the struggle many small businesses are facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its related business shutdowns and slowdowns. With restricted operations, interruptions in supply chains, and decreased sales and profits, these businesses may find themselves unable to afford the services they need to stay afloat, including legal services. Small Businesses Need Us aims to mobilize and activate professionals throughout the business community to pool their experience to help small businesses survive and recover from the impact of COVID-19.
Through the initiative, volunteers with various specialties required for day-to-day business operations, including legal service providers, are organized into cross-functional teams and matched with participating small businesses based on those organizations’ specific needs. All work is done remotely via phone and video conferencing. Volunteers can choose to work on defined projects, donate a set number of hours across projects, answer questions online, or offer in-kind products or services. Gibbons attorneys have the opportunity to assist a variety of small women- and minority-owned enterprises in a wide range of legal practice areas, including corporate, employment, real estate, intellectual property, and data privacy and security, among other types of legal services these businesses may need.
The Gibbons Cares community outreach platform reflects our position as a proud member of the business communities to which we belong, as well as an employer committed to ongoing educational and professional development, the promotion of women, and the quality of life of our workplace family.
Employees throughout the firm are encouraged to lead these efforts and champion causes and organizations, and together we donate our time, energy, and organizational skills. The fundraising and activities launched under Gibbons Cares foster a real sense of teamwork and collegiality at the firm; they nurture the enjoyment our people take in each other’s company, combine it with the pride that we have in our firm’s history and achievements, and leverage it to make a lasting positive impact on the community.
As with our pro bono work, we find that partnering with clients on community outreach enhances our client relationships and multiplies the effect of whatever we undertake together. Because we extend the opportunity to participate in so many Gibbons Cares initiatives to people outside of Gibbons itself, we contribute to the ongoing promotion of these organizations and causes by introducing them to sometimes new audiences, with the potential to provide continuous returns.
To maximize impact and avoid dilution of our messages and goals, Gibbons cares targets the firm’s outreach in four distinct areas:
Helping Children, Youth, and the Next Generation of Leaders: Gibbons attorneys and staff strongly believe it is critical to provide children with care and opportunities even at the earliest stages of their lives and education; these will lead to even further opportunities as they progress throughout their lives and in their higher education and professional careers. Gibbons Cares actively supports children’s health initiatives and numerous educational institutions in our local communities.
For example, Gibbons holds regular baby supplies drives for charitable organizations in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania that focus on mothers and families in need. We were also a proud sponsor of the March of Dimes’ inaugural “Newark March for Babies,” a fundraising walk for the more than half a million babies nationally who are born prematurely each year, including the 14,000 in New Jersey. Premature birth is the most common cause of infant death and permanent disability.
Gibbons remains vested in children and youth throughout the stages of their lives. We hold holiday book drives for schools in our cities, and backpack and school supplies drives to provide the necessary tools for the start of the school year. Our Philadelphia office is active with Philadelphia Futures, a nonprofit educational organization that supports promising urban high school students. Philadelphia Futures seeks to innovate and implement programs that motivate and prepare college-bound students from low-income households, through mentoring, academic enrichment, guidance counseling, and financial incentives.
We also host various internships for students. One such program is the corporate intern program with Cristo Rey Newark High School, through which the firm provides work experience to economically disadvantaged high school students via internships. The firm has hosted five student interns every year since Cristo Rey Newark High School was founded. According to one recent intern, who spent two years gaining experience in various firm departments: “Gibbons has helped me acquire the skills needed in an actual work site, while helping me pay for school. It has opened my eyes to all the possibilities that life may soon have in store for me.”
Since 2008, the firm has hosted a week-long internship for urban students in grades 8 through 12 from the New Jersey Law and Education Empowerment Project (NJ LEEP). At Gibbons, these students learn about the practice of law and the conduct of legal research and compete in a Moot Courtroom debate before one of the retired judges at the firm. In addition, the firm has offered three-week administrative internships to some of these students.
Gibbons also takes part in the USHAA Fellowship, a partnership with the Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey and the Center for Hispanic Policy Research and Development, New Jersey Department of Community Affairs. The fellowship selects some of the nation’s most promising minority scholars and exposes them to all aspects of advocacy – legal, legislative, and community grassroots – through part-time internships with judges, legislators, and major law firms.
On a lighter note, the firm is an enthusiastic participant in the annual Fresh Air Fund Softball Tournament, the “Battle of the Barristers,” a fundraiser for the Greater Newark Fresh Air Fund, which each summer provides camping and learning experiences for 500-600 inner-city children from the greater Newark area. Team Gibbons directly impacts the lives of these children by playing in the “Battle of the Barristers” – win or lose!
Encouraging Women in Transition: In partnership with the Gibbons Women’s Initiative, Gibbons Cares assists women experiencing significant transitions in their lives – for example, major health- or career-related issues – through organization of fundraising and other, hands-on outreach activities for groups focused on these needs. The Women’s Initiative is the vehicle through which we ensure the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women here at Gibbons, but we are dedicated to the notion that strengthening women’s positions should be a broader goal. Providing opportunities and alleviating challenges for women, wherever they are, can strengthen their workplace experiences and facilitate their advancement. We are actively involved in the “Dress for Success” initiative, through clothing and accessories drives that support the economic independence of disadvantaged women by outfitting them with professional clothing and career development tools. The firm supports women’s health causes by fielding teams for fundraising walks, often sponsoring races as well as covering the registration fees of all Gibbons team members, employees, and their friends and family alike.
Alleviating Crises at the Region’s Food Banks: Maintaining adequate inventory has been a tremendous challenge for our region’s food banks during the economic downturn and slow recovery. Meanwhile, demand has increased dramatically. Gibbons employees routinely collect non-perishable items to deliver to various food banks and soup kitchens in the region; we have distributed about 4,000 pounds (two tons!) of food over the past five years.
In addition, the firm, through its Women’s Initiative, will organize volunteer outings to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey. On one recent outing, the Gibbons volunteer team, which also included numerous clients and colleagues from the Women’s Initiative invitation list, spent an evening sorting and packing food products for distribution to some of the 1,600 nonprofit organizations the FoodBank supports, which include emergency food pantries, shelters, and other group care settings throughout the state. The team also made monetary and non-perishable food donations.
Gibbons Jeans Days for Charity: One Friday per month, “Gibbons Cares” by wearing jeans to work! All employees are invited to participate, paying a very small fee for the “privilege” of wearing jeans that day, though sometimes, donation of an item (such as a toy for a toy drive or non-perishable food for a food drive) is requested in addition to or instead of the fee. Employees also suggest the charities that are supported by these fundraisers. Jeans Days have proven exceptionally popular throughout the firm and raise tens of thousands of dollars each year. A few of the many worthy organizations that our Jeans Days have supported, raising over $160,000 just in the past five years, include:
- Adler Aphasia Center
- Air Compassion for Veterans
- American Heart Association
- Avon Foundation for Women
- Boys & Girls Club of Newark
- Build with Purpose
- City Harvest
- Community Blood Services
- Community FoodBank of New Jersey
- Cradles to Crayons
- ECLC of New Jersey
- Elks Club – Halloween Candy Drive
- Embrace Kids Foundation
- Foundation for Prader-Willi Research
- Fresh Air Fund (Newark Day Center)
- Global Kids
- GO GI Fund
- Go Red for Women
- Greater Newark Holiday Fund
- H. John Schank II Memorial Trust
- Heroes on the Water
- Honor Flight Network
- Hope Through Care, Inc.
- Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund
- Impact 100 Garden State
- Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund
- Iraq Afghanistan Veterans of America
- Irish Arts Center
- Just One Soccer League
- Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
- Lustgarten Foundation
- March of Dimes
- Meal at Noon c/o Second Baptist Church
- Military Support Group of NJ, Inc.
- Moms Helping Moms
- MSKCC Cycle for Survival
- National Fallen Firefighters Foundation
- National Junior Tennis & Learning of Newark
- National Kidney Foundation
- New Community Corporation
- Operation Backpack
- Operation Troop Appreciation
- Our Military Kids
- Pat Tillman Foundation
- Pets for Patriots
- Prayer Shoes Ministry
- Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief
- Red Cross (LA Floods)
- Red Cross Southern Shore Chapter
- Red Sneakers for Oakley
- Scholarship Fund for Inner-City Children
- Sister Pat’s Kids Camp
- St. John the Baptist Bread of Life Food Pantry
- St. John’s Food Pantry
- St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee, Inc.
- STOMP Out Bullying
- Support Center for Child Advocates
- Swim Strong Foundation
- Table to Table
- Take Back the Night Foundation
- Tenement Museum New York City
- The Bone Marrow Foundation
- The Joy of Sox
- The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City
- Thea’s Star of Hope
- Tyler Cardis Foundation
- Voices of September 11th
In addition to much-needed dollars, Gibbons Jeans Days have delivered to an array of charities in the past five years, among many other items: 205 pounds of candy for our troops; 229 pint of blood; 500 fully loaded backpacks for kids in need; and more than 300 items of clothing for men re-entering the work force, including suits, coats, shirts, and accessories. In addition, in 2016 we adopted eight families from Boys & Girls Club of Newark for the holidays. Each child received a new coat, a new pair of sneakers, and a toy. The families also received $175 gift cards to Shop-Rite, and we were able to purchase 50 additional gifts. For the 2017 holiday season, we granted 50 Wishes for Boys & Girls Club of Newark participants.
Gibbons donates more than $1 million annually in support of those communities in which the firm resides.
The John J. Gibbons Fellowship in Public Interest and Constitutional Law: One of the firm’s most significant contributions has been the creation and full funding of the John J. Gibbons Fellowship in Public Interest and Constitutional Law. The highly celebrated, longstanding Gibbons Fellowship undertakes significant public interest and constitutional law projects and litigation on a pro bono basis. Unlike traditional legal services projects or law firm pro bono programs, the Fellowship program is able to tackle a huge range of public interest issues of major importance and provide the resources and continuity of personnel to pursue projects to conclusion.
The Fellowship plays a critical role in a wide range of cases presenting issues of cutting-edge legal importance and broad significance to the public, focusing most closely on cases relating to same-sex marriage equality, the Freedom of Information Act, educational equity, family law, urban redevelopment, immigration; reproductive freedom; welfare reform; affordable housing, and prisoners’ rights – as well as the subjects of the most high-profile recent cases in which the Fellowship has been involved: the abolition of the death penalty in New Jersey, the historic U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding military detention in Rasul v. Bush, in favor of the Guantanamo Bay detainees, and the achievement of marriage equality in New Jersey.
The Gibbons Institute of Law, Science and Technology: In 2007, Gibbons donated $1 million to Seton Hall University School of Law to endow the Gibbons Institute of Law, Science and Technology, designed to train students and professionals in intellectual property law, to better meet the needs of industries facing cutting-edge technological and associated legal challenges. The Institute facilitates Seton Hall’s launch of an LL.M. degree in intellectual property law, expands the reach of its J.D. and M.S.J. degrees, and engages the local bar with continuing education programs and networking opportunities. In addition, the Gibbons Institute is a forum for lawyers, judges, scientists, and government officials to discuss the legal, political, and social problems that will continue to arise as scientific and technological changes challenge existing laws and legal institutions. With New Jersey as a hub of IP law – given the number of technology companies headquartered in the state, outstanding engineering and medical schools, proximity to New York, and sophisticated bench at both the district court and state levels – the Gibbons Institute can serve as a center for excellence to educate, train, and engage students and practitioners alike on the range of related issues.
Several prominent pharmaceutical companies, including Schering-Plough Corporation, sanofi-aventis, Johnson & Johnson, and Bristol-Myers Squibb, designated an additional $8.1 million in corporate gifts for the establishment of The Center for Health & Pharmaceutical Law at Seton Hall Law School.
New Jersey State Bar Foundation Endowment: Gibbons is the largest law firm donor to the foundation to assist in updating and redesigning its offices in New Brunswick. The New Jersey State Bar Foundation shares our longstanding commitment to the state’s legal community and to the training of the young attorneys.
Newark Arts Institutions: The firm and its attorneys remain deeply involved with many of the city’s arts institutions, such as the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, for which Patrick C. Dunican Jr., Chairman and Managing Director of the firm, serves on the Board of Directors and Council of Trustees. Firm Director Michael R. Griffinger has been involved with NJPAC from its very beginning and takes his ongoing fundraising role so seriously that he has literally climbed mountains for the organization. In 2008, at the age of 72, he climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, raising funds per foot (19,340), with all the proceeds going to support The Campaign for NJPAC. In all, the effort raised more than $220,000, much of which was contributed by employees or friends of Gibbons.