May 22, 2013 — Recognizing the firm’s contributions to pro bono and community service, Bingham honored a partner and two staff members at its eighth annual Pro Bono and Community Service Celebration on May 22.
Partner Carl Valenstein received Bingham’s John J. Curtin Public Service Award for his representation of Habitat for Humanity International in a microfinance lending project, while Gloria Moonesinghe and Maryann Boyan were recognized for their community service work.
The John J. Curtin Jr. Public Service Award was established in 2005 to honor the career of former Bingham of counsel Jack Curtin, who served as president of the American Bar Association in 1991 and was instrumental in establishing the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. The American Lawyer described Curtin as someone who “figured out how to combine a high-powered private practice and a rich public life” when presenting him with a lifetime achievement award in 2005.
“Very few people can live up to Jack’s example, but he inspires us all to try,” said Bingham Chairman Jay Zimmerman, adding that the firm donated more than 48,000 hours to pro bono legal work and 2,000 hours to community service in 2012. “We believe that it is an essential part of a law firm’s professional responsibility and development to perform pro bono work and to engage in other activities that benefit our communities.”
Valenstein advised Habitat for Humanity International on establishing a housing microfinance fund that will help thousands of low-income families around the world build, improve and maintain decent homes. Valenstein took on the matter through the University of Michigan International Transactions Clinic, where he is an adjunct professor.
The fund, MicroBuild, will assist families in developing countries obtain home loans. Approximately 95 percent of families in developing countries have no access to home financing, Zimmerman said.
With $45 million in financing from the Overseas Private Investment Corp. and $5 million in equity from Habitat, the Omidyar Network Fund and Triple Jump, the Dutch fund manager, the fund will lend to selected microfinance institutions around the world that will make loans to individual families for home improvement, incremental housing, land acquisition and new construction.
Valenstein and a team of Bingham lawyers, including Anne Bandes, worked for several years on the matter, setting up the fund, handling the tax planning, negotiating the loan agreements with OPIC and the micro lenders, establishing the compliance programs, and other fund organizational work.
“This is truly a team effort,” Valenstein said. “There is a desperate need among charitable organizations for skills that transactional lawyers bring to the table in the areas of structuring and documenting transactions and accessing capital sources.”
The Bingham community was equally engaged in community service and charitable projects in 2012.
Lawyers and staff participated in outreach efforts that included Say Yes to Education and the firm’s annual Backpack Project, which provides children with backpacks and school supplies at the beginning of the school year. Staff also were encouraged to participate in the firm’s Volunteer Day Program, which allows employees to devote time to projects that are of personal interest.
The firm recognized Moonesinghe, a legal secretary in Los Angeles, and Boyan, senior manager of secretarial services in Boston, for their commitment to community service.
Moonesinghe has spearheaded the Bingham Los Angeles office community service committee since its inception in 2009, said office managing partner Rick Rothman. Her drive and enthusiasm has encouraged others in the office to donate their time to a variety of causes.
“I can’t do justice to what Gloria has meant to the community service program here in LA,” Rothman said. “Her spirit has made the difference.”
Boyan has “backed almost every community service and charitable effort we do in this office,” said Boston managing partner Jon Albano, from organizing food and clothing drives to cooking at the local Ronald McDonald House.
“She not only organizes these efforts,” Albano said, “she also spends her own time lending a hand and gets others involved. We are lucky to have her, and she deserves this recognition of her hard work.”
In addition to volunteering, the firm gave back to local communities financially. Bingham donated more than $2.5 million to charitable organizations in 2012 in addition to personal contributions from lawyers and staff.
Zimmerman also noted that the firm funds one two-year and two three-year public interest fellowships with three prominent and respected legal-service organizations: Bay Area Legal Aid, New York Lawyers for Public Interest and Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles. Bingham also supports three Equal Justice Works fellows who are recent law school graduates and have developed projects that can impact lives and serve communities in need of legal assistance.
“It is a Bingham tradition to give back to the communities in which we live and work,” Zimmerman said. “Everyone should be proud of their efforts to build stronger communities and support those who otherwise would not have access to legal representation. I look forward to another great year in 2013.”