Baltimore Pro Bono Spotlight: Latham & Watkins LLP

January 31, 2021

January 2021 Pro Bono Spotlight

Latham & Watkins LLP

Mohammad Akhavannik, Erin Eckles, Chad Jennings, Cooper Rekrut, Latham & Watkins LLP

KIND’s Baltimore office is pleased to recognize a team of pro bono attorneys from Latham & Watkins LLP for our January 2021 Pro Bono Attorney Spotlight! This team was recognized by their KIND mentor for their dedication and advocacy on behalf of their three clients despite multiple case obstacles, tight deadlines, court delays, and other hurdles, especially during a pandemic. The team members provided the below reflections of their work with KIND and what they have learned from their clients and this experience.

When and why did you first take a KIND case?

I took my first KIND case within the first few weeks of starting at Latham, over 5 years ago. I still represent that client and now her siblings too, and I’m excited to see the kids moving closer and closer to legal permanent residency. I took that first case because I wanted to use my legal and Spanish skills to help undocumented families and children avail themselves of legal protections and recourses that could materially improve their lives but which are difficult or impossible to obtain without professional assistance. Those same reasons have kept me coming back to KIND and taking on new clients whenever I can. – Cooper Rekrut

Do you have any stand-out client stories?

Our three clients are very sweet and soft-spoken kids. Seeing them handle the SIJS hearing was incredibly moving. They were all very nervous about being in court and having to speak in front of a judge. We assured them that we would be with them for the entire hearing, and all that they needed to do was answer the questions we would be asking honestly. Each kid rose to the occasion and answered the questions clearly and without any fear in their voice. I was so moved to see our clients, who have endured so much in their short lives to get to the United States, handle the hearing and the judge’s questions so well. It was one of many instances of our clients teaching us about resilience. I am fortunate to work on KIND matters because of instances like these. – Erin Eckles

What have you learned from this experience or from your KIND client(s)?

My experience working on immigration cases has helped to reinforce what I have already learned from my day-to-day practice: namely, that there are many deserving individuals whose lives could be improved with just a small amount of assistance from legal counsel. Working with KIND over the years has continued to remind me that lawyers can utilize their skills to help those in need – in this case, kids who deserve every opportunity but are unable to get those opportunities without legal assistance. Perhaps more than anything, seeing my clients move closer and closer to obtaining legal residency reminds me of why I wanted to become a lawyer in the first place. – Chad Jennings

What is your favorite part about volunteering with KIND?

Volunteering with KIND has been an extremely rewarding experience because of the direct impact we make on the lives of our clients.  Being able to give back to these kids and seeing how much they have benefitted from our volunteer work are absolutely my favorite parts.  The real-life impact that volunteering with KIND makes is life-changing for the kids and sets them on a new path in life that would not have been possible without KIND volunteers.  I also have enjoyed getting to know my clients and improving my Spanish skills along the way! – Mohammad Akhavannik

Why should other attorneys do pro bono?

Pro bono is about using the law to help people who would otherwise be denied access to justice.  It provides a unique sense of empowerment and hopefulness to clients, and to oneself, that few other practices can provide.  Additionally, pro bono work gives attorneys the opportunity to expand their skills and expertise in a way that benefits everything we do in our day-to-day practices.  The personal and societal impact can make pro bono work incredibly rewarding.  – Mohammad Akhavannik

Do you have any advice for attorneys who may be taking their first pro bono case?

Like any case, the challenges are different based on the person and the circumstances surrounding the case. Lean into the resources KIND offers, including the excellent staff attorneys who are quick to answer any questions. Also, outline your availability to the client upfront and the scope of your expertise (especially any language barriers) prior to starting. This way, both you and the client understand what to expect and can have better communication throughout the process. – Mohammad Akhavannik