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Clifford Chance chooses the Center for Institutional and Social Change as winner of the 2021 Racial Justice Award

29 March 2021

Clifford Chance chooses the Center for Institutional and Social Change as winner of the 2021 Racial Justice Award

Leading international law firm Clifford Chance has named Columbia Law School's Center for Institutional and Social Change as the winner of its Racial Justice Award. The organisation, which is based in New York, will receive a £50,000 (US$70,000) donation and 500 hours of pro bono support over an 18 month period supporting its Paralegal Pathways Initiative, responding to the persistent racial injustice in the United States' criminal legal system.

Established in 2019, the Paralegal Pathways Initiative focuses on helping those returning home from American prisons to find sustainable careers. It does this by refining the existing talents of formerly incarcerated people, who often gain legal research and litigation skills while inside correctional facilities. The programme then matches them with one-year, paid fellowships in legal organizations, aiming to create economic mobility for Fellows, change the narrative regarding their valuable contributions to the legal profession, and enable them to influence the legal profession’s role in incarceration and its effects. The programme also builds awareness of the criminal legal system and its consequences among law students and future legal professionals, and promotes the leadership of justice-impacted individuals.

Funding provided by Clifford Chance will help to accelerate the scaling of the project work. Clifford Chance will also deploy expertise from right across the firm including lawyers and business services employees with a wide range of relevant skills and insight to offer, with a notable focus on mentoring participants in the Initiative's programmes.

Jeroen Ouwehand, Senior Partner at Clifford Chance, said: "Last year we committed to work with our people and partners to drive concrete actions to help address the racial injustices highlighted by George Floyd's death and the international reaction to it. Today I am proud to announce our partnership with the Paralegal Pathways Initiative, through our Racial Justice Award. Racial justice will not simply happen by accident or through kind words. Racial justice is a permanent campaign that requires a permanent commitment to take effective steps by those able to make a difference."

Paralegal Pathways Project Director Devon Simmons said: "Racial injustice is a tragic and undeniable feature of the United States' criminal legal system, and our work is just one small part of addressing the harms we see all too clearly around us. We have to be in this work for the long haul."

Susan Sturm, the Center for Institutional Social Change's director added. "Every step on the journey to addressing racial injustices requires hard work, grounded in the leadership of people most directly impacted by racism and mass incarceration. The more allies who work together in genuine partnership and long-term collaboration the better. We are delighted to be working with a law firm like Clifford Chance, bringing its skills, resources and networks to bear alongside our team and our Fellows."

Clifford Chance's Racial Justice Award is open to not-for-profit organisations globally that help individuals, groups or communities use the law to achieve significant inclusion, racial justice and social impact. The firm has a longstanding commitment to access to justice, which represents one of the three key pillars in its pro bono activities alongside access to finance and education. The winner was chosen by an independent judging panel including senior representatives from our strategic pro bono partners, our client base, along with partners from Clifford Chance.

For more information on Clifford Chance's stance on inclusion and diversity please visit here and for more information on Access to Justice initiatives please visit here.