The Brief: Law School News and Events

Skadden, Arps Gift to Support Penn Law Human Rights Project

Robert C. Sheehan, L’69
Robert C. Sheehan, L’69
Students at the University of Pennsylvania Law School will have even more opportunities to advocate for human rights and asylum protection, thanks to a gift from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and its partners. The gift honors Robert C. Sheehan, L’69, who recently ended his 15-year tenure as executive partner of the law firm and assumed a new role as the firm’s pro bono partner.

Penn Law is using the $1 million gift to create the Sheehan Asylum/Human Rights Project. The school will recruit a fulltime professor to guide students as they work on asylum cases in partnership with local providers of legal services to immigrants. The Sheehan Project will be part of Penn Law’s three-year-old Transnational Legal Clinic, where students work with clients across cultures, languages, borders and legal systems on human rights litigation and advocacy. It is one of nine clinics in Penn Law’s Gittis Center for Clinical Legal Education, which offers sophisticated instruction and legal experience in civil practice, child advocacy, mediation and criminal defense through its clinics and professional externships.

Sheehan, who was executive partner from 1994 to April 2009 and previously founded Skadden’s Financial Institutions Mergers & Acquisitions Group, oversaw the firm’s global expansion and spearheaded community service initiatives, including pro bono work. From 2001 to 2008, the average number of pro bono hours for Skadden attorneys nearly doubled, and the percentage of lawyers who contribute at least 20 hours a week increased from 38 percent to 65 percent. The firm also launched, and continues to support, the Skadden Fellowship Foundation, which provides two-year fellowships to at least 25 very talented young lawyers every year so they may pursue careers in public interest law. With the 2009 class announced earlier this year, the foundation has supported 564 fellows over the past 21 years, and more than 90 percent of them have pursued careers in public interest career after their fellowship tenures.

Earlier this year, Sheehan received the Pro Bono Institute’s Laurie D. Zelon Award from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in recognition of his exemplary pro bono service.