International law firm Dorsey & Whitney LLP announced today that the Hennepin County Bar Association will recognize Partner RJ Zayed with a 2018 HCBA Excellence Award for Pro Bono Service at the HCBA Annual Meeting on May 31, 2018.
Mr. Zayed is Chair of Dorsey's Government Enforcement and Corporate Investigations practice group. His work in that area focuses on counseling, compliance, internal investigations, and white collar defense of government enforcement actions and investigations. Before entering private practice, Mr. Zayed served as a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota.
A major focus of Mr. Zayed’s pro bono work is for the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota and the Federal Defender under the Court’s Criminal Justice Act Plan. He is regularly appointed to represent indigent criminal defendants in federal felony cases eligible for services under the CJA due to inability to afford an adequate legal defense. The objective of the CJA Plan is “to attain the ideal of equality before the law for all persons.”
In 2017, Mr. Zayed devoted over 500 hours to leading Dorsey pro bono lawyer teams representing indigent criminal defendants under the CJA Plan. “RJ has one of the deepest commitments to pro bono work I have ever seen in a lawyer working in private practice,” said Katherine Arnold, Dorsey attorney and a member the Government Enforcement and Corporate Investigations Practice Group. “As the head of our Government Enforcement and Corporate Investigations group, he regularly has our group join him in pro bono representation of federal criminal defendants whose representation requires hundreds of hours of work. The cases he takes on aren’t the ‘glamour’ pro bono projects that get lauded at cocktail parties. Yet, he gives his pro bono clients every bit of effort and attention as any other Dorsey client.”
“Community is a Dorsey core value, and pro bono work is one of the most important ways we give back to the community”, said Eric Ruzicka, the Firm’s Pro Bono Partner. “We are extremely proud that RJ’s pro bono work is being recognized by the Hennepin County Bar Association. His work is an excellent example of Dorsey’s extensive pro bono program.”
Dorsey’s pro bono program is led by two full-time pro bono attorneys and a partner who oversees the program Firm-wide across Dorsey’s 20 offices in the United States, China, Canada and Europe. In 2017, the Firm devoted over 30,000 hours to pro bono work in a wide range of areas from criminal defense work to housing to asylum to protection of women who have been subjected to domestic abuse. In 2016, over 105 Dorsey lawyers in the Minneapolis office alone were recognized as North Star Lawyers for devoting more than 50 hours to pro bono. Dorsey was an original signatory of the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge and has met the Challenge every year since it was put in place in 1993 by devoting at least 3% of total billable hours to qualifying pro bono work.
In 2017, the Hennepin County Bar Association announced its new Excellence Awards program to honor individual members for contributions to the profession and the community. The new Excellence Awards replace the association's previous awards programs. Up to twelve HCBA Excellence Awards may be awarded in a given bar year, selected from any of the six categories: Advancing Diversity and Inclusion, Improving Access to Justice, Providing Pro Bono Service, Mentoring in the Profession, Advancing Innovation in the Profession, and Serving the Association/Foundation.