Debevoise Names Jennifer R. Cowan Head of Pro Bono Program

13 July 2015

Debevoise & Plimpton LLP today announced that Jennifer R. Cowan will lead its pro bono program as Pro Bono Counsel, effective August 1. She will succeed Marjorie J. Menza, who headed the program for three years and is moving to Los Angeles with her family, where she will continue to work with the firm on special projects.

Ms. Cowan has been part of Debevoise’s Litigation Department for 17 years, including nearly nine years as a counsel. During her time at Debevoise, in addition to her practice in white collar and regulatory investigations and commercial litigation, Ms. Cowan has represented a diverse range of individuals and not-for-profit organizations pro bono. One of the most significant is her ongoing, decade-long representation of individual detainees at Guantanamo in habeas corpus litigation and other proceedings. In 2013, Ms. Cowan obtained a writ of habeas corpus for Ibrahim Idris, a mentally ill Guantanamo detainee from Sudan, who was then released and repatriated to his home country. It was the first habeas grant to a Guantanamo detainee by the D.C. District Court since 2010.

“Jennifer is ideally suited to assume the leadership of our pro bono program, which was impressively managed by Margie for three years. Like Margie, Jennifer embodies the importance that the firm has historically placed on providing legal services to low-income and disadvantaged individuals and litigating issues of national importance. She has an outstanding reputation in the New York legal community in both pro bono and commercial matters,” said Presiding Partner Michael W. Blair. “Debevoise has a deep and longstanding tradition of providing pro bono legal services to those who need our help the most. This important tradition will continue to thrive under Jennifer’s stewardship.”

“I am excited to assume this new role,” Ms. Cowan said. “Pro bono representations are part of the fundamental identity of Debevoise and I’m honored to lead those efforts. I look forward to strengthening and expanding the firm’s relationships with a wide range of community and legal services organizations around the world, and to continuing to uphold our reputation for providing high-quality representation on legal issues that are both popular and unpopular.”

Debevoise has long been recognized as a global leader in pro bono work. The firm placed No. 1 overall and No. 1 in pro bono among all U.S.-based law firms in The American Lawyer’s “10-Year A-List,” and is a charter signatory to the Pro Bono Institute’s Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge™, agreeing to commit at least 5% of annual billed time to pro bono matters, as well as to the New York City Bar Statement of Pro Bono Principles. For each of the last three years, Debevoise has been honored as one of Law360’s “Pro Bono Firms of the Year.” In 2014 alone, Debevoise attorneys in the U.S. averaged 123 hours of pro bono work and placed third in the average number of pro bono hours billed per lawyer in The American Lawyer’s survey of pro bono work.

Debevoise lawyers work closely with an array of public interest organizations around the world to provide pro bono legal representation, including: Access to Justice Foundation, Center for Constitutional Rights, Center for Reproductive Rights, City Bar Justice Center, Hackney Community Law Centre, Her Justice, Human Dignity Trust, Human Rights First, Lambda Legal, LawWorks, Lawyers Alliance for New York, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, The Legal Aid Society, National Pro Bono Centre, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, Office of the Appellate Defender, PILnet, Rwanda Works, Sanctuary for Families, Social and Economic Rights Action Center, Together Fund, Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, Urban Justice Center and many others.

Debevoise & Plimpton LLP is a premier law firm with market-leading practices, a global perspective and strong New York roots. We deliver effective solutions to our clients’ most important legal challenges, applying clear commercial judgment and a distinctively collaborative approach.