The firm has been recognized for our commitment to the community by a variety of organizations. In recent years, Gibbons has been named NJBIZ Magazine’s Corporate Citizen of the Year and has been highlighted among the New Jersey Business & Industry Association’s Awards for Excellence Winners in the area of Public Service.
Numerous organizations have recognized Gibbons for our commitment to the community. In its 2015 "Pro Bono Scorecard," The American Lawyer ranked Gibbons 44th for pro bono work among AmLaw 200 firms, scoring above more than 120 larger firms and demonstrating the most improved ranking for a New Jersey firm. Volunteer Lawyers for Justice bestowed the firm with a 2013 Pro Bono Service Award for our post-Hurricane Sandy work. In 2013, The Community Health Law Project honored Gibbons with its Ann Klein Advocate Award for the pro bono and charitable work the firm undertakes for healthcare related organizations and for its general advocacy in the areas of disability and health law. Law360 named Gibbons one of its “Pro Bono Firms of 2012” in its third annual listing of the nation’s top law firm pro bono programs, profiling 20 firms nationwide that committed a significant number of attorney hours and secured major victories in high-profile matters. Half of the firms on this list were among the largest 30 law firms in the nation. Similarly, the New Jersey State Bar Association (NJSBA) selected Gibbons to receive one of its 2012 Pro Bono Awards, highlighting the firm’s “unyielding commitment to pro bono service,” which “makes it a true asset to the legal profession.” In previous years, Gibbons was named NJBIZ magazine’s "Corporate Citizen of the Year" and highlighted among the New Jersey Business & Industry Association’s Awards for Excellence Winners in the area of Public Service.
Through 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 – Gibbons attorneys tackle issues of national and statewide magnitude while simultaneously devoting serious volunteer attention to our local communities. Recently, we have significantly expanded our longstanding pro bono 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.
With more and more companies integrating pro bono programs into their business plans, Gibbons attorneys have also partnered with a number of our clients on various innovative, meaningful projects. While we have long accepted volunteer federal and state court appointments in criminal, family, immigration, probate, and virtually every other aspect of the law, we have recently begun to explore how undertaking these projects with clients cultivates our client relationships while strengthening our attorneys’ general morale and professional development.
Gibbons attorneys are thoroughly committed to all manner of pro bono outreach, with a particular focus in a few critical areas.
- Homeless and Tenants’ Rights Advocacy: 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, we work with Newark Community Revitalization Inc. with regard to various Newark housing projects designed for families who work in the city.
Our Philadelphia office attorneys are extensively involved in the Homeless Advocacy Project (HAP), a legal aid initiative founded by members of the Philadelphia bar and the homeless services community to provide direct civil legal services to homeless families and individuals; connect homeless clients with needed social services; and advocate for the needs of Philadelphia’s homeless population and promote positive policy changes to address those needs. Every month, HAP conducts eight to 16 legal clinics at shelters and soup kitchens throughout the city, in which Gibbons attorneys are active participants, handling, among many others, Social Security, disability, and landlord/tenant matters.
- Prisoners’ Rights and Advocacy for Asylum Seekers: Whether our pro bono client is currently in prison or is reentering society after completing a prison sentence, Gibbons attorneys are adept at matters ranging from parole revocation to expungement. We work on such initiatives as the Fugitive Safe Surrender Program, through which individuals with non-violent felony and misdemeanor warrants can turn themselves in to law enforcement and have their cases adjudicated in an environment outside the criminal courts; Project Innocence, which strives to exonerate people convicted of crimes they did not commit; and, through Volunteer Lawyers for Justice, the ReLeSe program, which addresses common issues that recently incarcerated individuals face with reentry into society and the workforce. Recently, Gibbons presented Volunteer Lawyers for Justice with the entire $15,000 in matching funds the organization needed to secure a critical grant to fund ReLeSe.
Our attorneys also regularly handle asylum cases, often through Human Rights First, that involve issues that range from political persecution to women’s rights.
- Support for First Responders: As a result of the winding down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, veterans are returning home in droves to find themselves facing a litany of potential problems. Lawyers Serving Warriors™ is a project of the National Veterans Legal Services Program, which provides legal assistance to service members injured in these conflicts. They often must make immediate decisions regarding military disability evaluation, continuation of military service, or transition to civilian life. Lawyers Serving Warriors™ has recruited and trained hundreds of private practice and in-house lawyers, including more than 20 from Gibbons, to provide the service members with free legal representation in disability, discharge, and veterans benefits cases.
Our work for veterans can also encompass some outside-the-box projects. For example, Gibbons is working with a small business entrepreneur who has developed a program that teaches school-aged children etiquette towards military veterans, provides information about blue/gold star families, and tells individual veterans’ stories. The goal of the program is make students more aware of our military veterans and appreciative of the positive character traits embodied in their lives. Gibbons has been providing pro bono counsel in the areas of basic copyright and trademark law, as well as regarding business formation considerations.
We have also recently partnered with the Wills for Heroes Foundation and our corporate neighbor Prudential to assist Essex County first responder personnel (police, fire, and EMTs), along with their respective spouses or partners, with estate planning. During one full-day session, Gibbons attorneys helped first responders generate their estate planning documents (such as wills, powers of attorneys, and advance directives), while numerous Gibbons employees provided extensive administrative and on-site assistance and also witnessed and notarized the signing of the wills.
- Support for Society’s Vulnerable: Gibbons provides broad representation to society’s most under-represented, in areas critical to their health, careers, and lives. Working with the Community Health Law Project, for example, our attorneys handle Americans with Disabilities Act and social security disability cases. We handle immigration cases for people wishing to emigrate to the U.S., who include an Olympic-caliber high school runner from Kenya attending St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark on a missionary scholarship. Our New York attorneys, meanwhile, participate in the New York City Bar Association’s Cancer Advocacy Project. Our role involves providing estate planning services to low-income cancer patients, including the preparation of wills, living wills and health-care proxies, and powers of attorney.
Through our work with Partners For Women and Justice and the Rachel Coalition, two nonprofit organizations that represent female victims of domestic violence in the northern New Jersey area, we handle requests for temporary restraining orders (TROs) on behalf of battered women. Gibbons attorneys meet with the victim immediately upon assignment to discuss amending the TRO if necessary, and appear on her behalf in court. If our client decides to pursue the matter further, we prepare the Final Restraining Order (FRO), which involves gathering evidence and preparing the client and witness for testimony in court. If the domestic violence victim decides against moving forward, we counsel her on how stay safe and how to seek help if she experiences any form of domestic violence again.
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 to these efforts. 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; introducing them to sometimes new audiences is a more long-term benefit, with the potential to provide continuous returns.
To maximize impact and avoid dilution of our message and goals, Gibbons Cares targets the firm’s outreach in four distinct areas:
- Helping children, youth, and the next generation of leaders
- Encouraging women in transition
- Alleviating crisis at the region’s food banks
- Gibbons Jeans Days for Charity
- 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, as well as various educational institutions in our local communities.
We also host various internships for students. One such program is the corporate intern program with Christ the King 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 Christ the King 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. At Gibbons, these students learned about the practice of law and the conduct of legal research and competed 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, NJ 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.
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.
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 broader than a firm-wide 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 on occasion 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 just in recent years include:
- Leukemia and Lymphoma Society: the largest voluntary health organization dedicated to funding research, finding cures, and ensuring access to treatments for blood cancer patients
- Community Food Bank of New Jersey: the largest anti-hunger and anti-poverty organization in New Jersey
- Our Military Kids: a nonprofit organization that supports children of deployed National Guard and Reserve service members and children of wounded warriors from all service branches
- Tuesday’s Children: a nonprofit family service organization that has made a long term commitment to every individual impacted by the events of September 11, 2001 and other terrorist incidents worldwide
- Operation Quiet Comfort: a national benefit organization that provides small quilts (3’ x 5’ finished) to comfort wounded military personnel
- Cycle for Survival: an indoor team cycling fundraiser that has raised more than $4.5 million in support of research on rare cancers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
- Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International: the worldwide leader in funding research to find better treatments and a cure for type 1 diabetes
- Newark NOW: an organization dedicated to equipping women in the community with all the necessary information, materials, and tools needed to assure a healthy pregnancy and post natal experience
- Women In Need (WIN): one of the largest providers of both shelter and supportive housing to homeless families throughout New York City each night
- Girls Educational and Mentoring Services’ (GEMS): an organization dedicated to empowering girls and young women who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking to exit the commercial sex industry
In addition to much-needed dollars, Gibbons Jeans Days have delivered to an array of charities in recent years, among many other items: 500 back-to-school backpacks; hundreds of toys; 288 items (suits, ties, shirts, etc.) for men re-entering the workforce; 205 pounds of leftover Halloween candy sent to the troops; and over 11,000 pounds of food collected for local food pantries.