Bringing Summer Associates Into The Pro Bono Fold

Tuesday, August 1, 2006 - 00:00

Editor: Ms. Ciko, please tell our readers something about your professional experience.

Ciko: I have been with K&LNG for my entire career. I started as a summer associate in the late 1980s and have been practicing with the firm as an associate, then as a partner, for the past 15 years. I am a litigator with a primary focus on securities enforcement and white collar criminal defense. I represent investment advisors, investment companies and individuals in a variety of regulatory and private matters. In doing so, I regularly appear before the SEC, New York Attorney General and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Editor: What were the things that attracted you to the firm?

Ciko: I was attracted to the firm because of the breadth and quality of its practice. I was looking for a firm engaged in a variety of practice areas and one with a strong national reputation.

Editor: Please tell us about your practice. How has it evolved over the course of your career?

Ciko: I have worked as a criminal and civil securities litigator from the beginning of my career. Early on, my practice focused more heavily on white collar criminal matters, including the defense of a New York Stock Exchange floor broker charged with front running, an individual charged with bringing a fraudulent initial public offering to the market and an individual charged with organizing a ponzi scheme under the guise of operating as a legitimate investment manager. More recently, I have focused on civil securities enforcement cases, including representing broker-dealer and hedge fund professionals in investigations by the SEC, CFTC and the New York Attorney General in matters stemming from market-timing, insider trading and related securities law allegations.

Editor: You have also enjoyed a kind of parallel career in the pro bono arena. For starters, what brought you to pro bono service?

Ciko: I became involved in pro bono work in large part because of the firm's commitment to pro bono. Dedication to providing pro bono service is something that is deeply engrained in the culture of K&LNG. This commitment is reflected in the fact that the firm encourages all of its lawyers, including its summer associates, to do pro bono work. My first view of this commitment was when I was a summer associate. At that time, I was brought into a matter representing elderly individuals who were victims of credit card fraud. Our work made a huge impact on the clients (we were successful in our efforts to recoup their losses), and it made a big impact on me because the senior lawyers on the case allowed us to take on significant responsibility for the matter. As a result, in addition to having the satisfaction of doing meaningful community service, I also benefited from a significant hands-on learning experience.

Editor: Can you give us an overview of the New York office's pro bono program?

Ciko: I coordinate the pro bono program in the New York office. I have worked to establish meaningful relationships with a small number of pro bono service providers in lieu of representing clients from across a whole spectrum of different arenas. That helps to give the program more focus and direction, although, I hasten to add, it does not prevent our attorneys from taking cases from a variety of other sources, as they wish.

We focus on several types of cases. A significant volume of our pro bono work is in connection with the Second Circuit Pro Bono Panel, which assigns cases, both civil and criminal, through the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. We handle the oral and written appeals. These are important cases to us in that they enable associates to get experience arguing (with senior lawyer supervision) in front of the Second Circuit. We also have a significant amount of work that comes to us through an organization that provides corporate and transactional work, which is often difficult to find. In addition, we have historically represented individuals who are seeking political asylum.

Editor: I gather you have tackled the problem of finding pro bono work for transactional lawyers?

Ciko: Finding suitable and interesting pro bono work for our corporate lawyers is one of my biggest challenges. I have been fortunate in being able to establish a relationship with the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, which provides a variety of transactional services for individuals and organizations in the arts. We also work with the Lawyers Alliance of New York, which offers only transactional cases. Through this group we have been able to take on a number of sophisticated matters involving real estate, finance, tax and construction work. This is an excellent source of pro bono projects for us, and I spend a great deal of my time fostering that relationship.

Editor: Are there particular needs that the New York office addresses that distinguish it from the firm's other offices?

Ciko: Any pro bono program is going to be defined by the city where the office is located. Here in New York we are fortunate to have a wealth of opportunities at our doorstep. Some of the things that we do - our political asylum cases, for example - are not generally done in other firm offices.

Editor: I understand that the New York office has established a relationship with inMotion, a New York City-based non-profit organization.

Ciko: I was introduced to inMotion by an organization that works with us on asylum cases. inMotion is a non-profit organization that represents women faced with domestic violence and custody situations. The organization handles other matters, but those two issues constitute its primary focus.

Editor: What kinds of services does the firm bring to the program?

Ciko: The firm offers pro bono legal services to support the inMotion staff. We act as primary counsel on cases, with support from in-house legal counsel. Given the volume of cases, in-house counsel at inMotion rely heavily on the pro bono participation of a number of law firms. Most of the work is in New York Family Court. This venue offers a variety of opportunities for our more junior lawyers to represent clients in court appearances, something they might not otherwise experience until much later in their careers.

Editor: And you have extended this program to the New York office's summer associates?

Ciko: Yes. We make a considerable effort to expose our summer associates to pro bono work. It is a way of introducing them to this important aspect of firm culture at the very earliest stage in their careers, and we find that the experience leaves them with a very positive impression of the firm.

inMotion has tailored their program to accommodate summer associates. It provides special training, and attempts to identify a group of cases that will mature and be concluded during the summer so that summer associates can experience a matter from start to finish.

Editor: How does this work? The summer associates are not admitted attorneys.

Ciko: The summer associates receive training from both the firm and from InMotion on these cases. They are permitted to appear on behalf of an inMotion client and can argue cases in Family Court, provided they are with an admitted attorney.

This is a powerful experience for our summer associates. They are on their feet and in an adversarial setting. There is a mentoring role here as well, and while the enthusiasm of the summer associates is gratifying, they do require guidance. Their work with a senior associate or a partner in these cases often establishes strong bonds that can influence what they choose to do following law school.

Editor: Any unanticipated problems?

Ciko: No. This program seems to benefit everyone. It has been a great success for inMotion. Our summer associates have gained invaluable experience in a real courtroom setting, with all of the personal and professional rewards that entails, and the firm is the beneficiary of their gratitude. Our associates and partners have been able to develop excellent relationships with the summer associates. Above all, the program has been of tremendous benefit for the clients.

Editor: What sort of response have you had from the summer associates?

Ciko: It is extremely positive. We are able to introduce them, in this program, to situations where they have an opportunity to make a substantial difference in someone's life. That does not happen very often for any of us, and they become deeply involved in these cases. I have had the experience of summer associates coming to me during the course of the summer and expressing how valuable the program has been for them in that it allows them to experience the thrill of being "a real lawyer."

The firm has had a great deal of success in bringing summer associates back as full-time, first-year associates after graduation from law school. We try to expose them to as many different aspects of the firm and its work as possible over the course of the summer before their final year of law school, so I cannot point to any one thing as the reason they come back to us following graduation. I have to think, however, that the inMotion project plays its part in this decision. It has a galvanizing effect on the summer associates, irrespective of whether they are going to be litigators, transactional lawyers or something else.

Editor: Will you share with us your thoughts about what a program like this says about the firm that supports it? How does it impact firm morale?

Ciko: The program demonstrates the firm's commitment to pro bono service in a variety of ways. It shows that the firm is serious about its attorneys meeting their professional obligation to give to the community through pro bono service. It also shows the firm's desire to provide substantive training for its young attorneys, something that is often difficult to come by for young associates. By exposing them to as much responsibility as they can handle at this stage in their careers, the firm is enabling them to take ownership of a matter and to find a way to succeed with it. That is a career development experience that is simply priceless. A program like this also brings people together from a variety of backgrounds and professional experiences. For example, it is not uncommon for lawyers across disparate disciplines to head off together to staff a pro bono legal clinic. These events serve to solidify their relationship and to bind them together in a kind of common effort that reflects the value the firm accords pro bono service. And, of course, working in such a program is simply the right thing to do.

All of these things come together to give an enormous boost to firm morale. The people who participate feel good about what they are doing and about the firm that puts such a value on this type of activity.

Editor: And the personal rewards that derive from this type of work?

Ciko: The personal rewards are incalculable. Two of our associates represented an individual in an asylum case after September 11. This was a time, of course, when no one was winning these cases. They put a tremendous amount of work into the case and, ultimately, they succeeded in winning asylum status for him. The client has now named his first son after the male associate on the case. I do not think the rewards for this kind of work get any better.

Please email the interviewee at eciko@klng.com with questions about this interview.