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Pro bono: Our US legacy

Norton Rose Fulbright’s commitment to pro bono work throughout the US dates back more than 70 years to the 1934 establishment of the MD Anderson Foundation. Former partners William B. Bates and John H. Freeman were two of the three original trustees of the Foundation and through their vigorous pro bono commitment to building the Foundation’s legal infrastructure and spearheading bond elections supporting the area, they helped create the Texas Medical Center, the largest health care center in the world.

In the early 1960s, US Attorney General Robert Kennedy appointed partner Leon Jaworski to prosecute Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett for defying federal court orders to integrate the University of Mississippi. In spite of hate mail and the potential loss of clients, Jaworski carried out the assignment. As a result, Barnett was ordered by the US Supreme Court to stand trial for defying court orders, and James Meredith gained admittance to the University, becoming Ole Miss's first African-American student.

In 1973, Leon Jaworski was appointed to serve as Special Prosecutor for the Watergate investigation, which eventually led to President Richard Nixon's resignation.

In the 1980s, another visionary, Jim Sales, helped bring pro bono programs under the umbrella of a nonprofit foundation rather than continuing on an individual and ad hoc basis. Under Sales' leadership, the Houston Bar Foundation was established to help fund a pro bono program, the Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program, which he founded the year before. Sales also led a statewide effort of the Texas Access to Justice Commission to increase Texas resources available for the legal representation of the poor.

Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, our New York office provided pro bono legal services to the affected victims, and established a foundation which donated $250,000 in victim assistance funds.

In 2014, we were honored by the American Bar Association with the Pro Bono Publico Award, recognizing us among the firms who “demonstrate the highest levels of commitment and service offered by the legal profession.” Our extensive work on behalf of vulnerable immigrant youth, trafficking survivors, victims of human rights abuses abroad and the same-sex partners of veterans and active military members led to our recognition as a Law 360 Pro Bono Law Firm of the Year in 2014, 2015 and 2016, and to our being named to the National Law Journal's Pro Bono Hot List in 2015 and 2016. 

Norton Rose Fulbright's culture of commitment to public service continues to serve as pillar of our philosophy.