Gibson Dunn Attorney Realizes Her Dream by Becoming Firm’s First Pro Bono Director
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Katherine Marquart went to law school to help the world, to practice in public interest law, but after working a summer at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher’s Los Angeles office, she realized she really liked big law. For seven years at Gibson Dunn, the 31-year-old lawyer worked heavily on such cases as the Chevron case, and it would almost seem as if she sold her soul in the process. This was not, however, the case, as she kept up her pro-bono work. One case in particular proved career altering, and let her combine her love for big law with her passion for pro bono work.

As she said in an interview with Am Law, the difference came when she was working with poor families with autistic children, whose benefits had been unfairly denied. She explained in the interview:


My fourth year I worked almost exclusively on a pro bono case I brought into the firm. Ultimately it became a class action on behalf of 2,300 kids living in the East L.A. area who had been diagnosed with autism. They were all from poor families, many were minorities, and they were all receiving state-funded services related to their autism. Then, in the summer of 2010, all of a sudden these kids had their services terminated, supposedly because of a bill passed by the California legislature. But if you reviewed the bill, it was very clear that it did not authorize termination of critical medical treatment for kids with autism. We filed a complaint and sought a preliminary injunction order in L.A. Superior Court. Ultimately, we won the preliminary injunction order. The state agencies then agreed to a very favorable settlement agreement that reinstated all the kids’ services on a permanent basis.

She felt nervous to be pouring so much work into nonbillable hours, but her coworkers gave her the go-ahead, so she went on and went ahead.

“It was a big turning point in my career,” she said, “It was the first time I had led a case from start to finish, and it was really fulfilling. I felt like, this is why I went to law school, this is what I love doing, and this is what I want to do moving forward. But I wasn’t really sure how to translate that into a full-time job. I figured, I’ll stick it out here at Gibson until I figure that out. I continue to work on pro bono cases and got involved in the firm’s pro bono committee and community services committee. Just about a year ago, the idea for this position came about.”

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The position was one other firms had imposed, but not Dunn; she is now their first Pro Bono Director. She is thus able to fuse her love for big law with full time pro bono work, thus realizing her original purpose in going to law school.

Image Source: Am Law Daily



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