Racial justice moved to the forefront of the national conversation in 2020; the events behind this focus
affirmed and highlighted the need and responsibility for Faegre Drinker to continue our work and increase
our efforts to support systemic change. Law firms are uniquely positioned to analyze and advocate to change
laws and policies encouraging, perpetuating or allowing racial injustice. Faegre Drinker is committed to
serving underrepresented communities and individuals, supporting entities that address these issues and
advancing civil rights causes.
Much of our pro bono practice indirectly addresses the consequences of structural racism. We seek to
correct the effects of economic and other disparities which impact Black people, Indigenous people and other
people of color (BIPOC). From housing and education to second chances, medical-legal partnerships and
more, this work is vital to our communities and fundamental to our pro bono practice.
Advancing racial justice also requires a long-term effort to intentionally dismantle structural racism. The firm
is participating in local and national efforts, including the Law Firm Anti-Racism Alliance, that are taking a
long-term approach to identifying and dismantling laws, policies and systems that contribute to systemic
In addition, racial equity starts at home. You can read about the firm's commitment to diversity and inclusion
here. Read on to learn about the five main areas of focus as we strive to effect systemic change.
Faegre Drinker represents clients on a range of matters to protect civil rights and liberties including equal
access to education, access to information and the right of individuals with disabilities to live in the
community. Much of this work directly or indirectly addresses racial injustice. We regularly partner with the
national American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and local ACLU chapters, the Washington and Chicago
Lawyers' Committees for Civil Rights Under Law, and other local and national nonprofit organizations.
Our firm participates in court-based appointment programs, representing low-income litigants in federal
district court matters, principally civil rights claims related to police misconduct for excessive force,
retaliation, failure to protect and prison conditions. We are working with the ACLU of Pennsylvania to
address racial profiling by Pennsylvania state troopers. During the pandemic, Faegre Drinker successfully
secured release of medically vulnerable clients in immigration detention and is pursuing a class action lawsuit
against the State of New Mexico for failing to take appropriate COVID safety measures to protect the lives
and constitutional rights of people housed in the state's prison system. Finally, Faegre Drinker has a long
history of advocating for children and seeking to reform the systems charged with caring for them.
Faegre Drinker engages in non-partisan voting rights efforts to protect democracy by making it fairer, safer
and easier to vote. People of color, particularly Black citizens, have been systematically disenfranchised in
this country. An example of recent work in this area is Minnesota litigation seeking to allow individuals who
have been convicted of felonies to vote once they serve their sentence. Felony disenfranchisement was
implemented to block Black voters post-Reconstruction. This systemic disenfranchisement is bound together
with racial injustice in the criminal legal system. Collateral consequences of felonies create a permanent
economic and political underclass, and this litigation seeks to address that issue.
People of color are more likely to be charged with crimes and are likely to have longer sentences. Mass
incarceration has been called the “new Jim Crow," and the U.S. maintains the world’s largest prison
population. Faegre Drinker's pro bono practice addresses these issues in a variety of ways. We regularly
accept criminal appeals and clemency work, as well as work with local innocence projects. Volunteer teams
from across the firm are fighting historic racial injustice through the Jim Crow Juries Project, representing
individuals who were convicted by non-unanimous juries in Louisiana.
Re-Entry and Second Chances
Racial disparity exists in the U.S. criminal legal system, and therefore people of color comprise a significant
portion of those who need help with legal issues related to re-entry. People of color are disproportionately
impacted by collateral consequences after incarceration, especially in accessing resources necessary for a
successful return to the community including housing, education, training and employment.
Faegre Drinker is a founding member of the Pro Bono Institute's Collaborative Justice Initiative on Reentry
and provides leadership as well as direct representation to reentering individuals with civil legal needs (family
law, consumer debt, drivers licenses, identification). Faegre Drinker provides representation to individuals
eligible for criminal records expungement and is also participating in efforts to reduce fines and fees
contributing to re-entry problems.
Homeownership and high-quality affordable rental housing are critical tools for wealth building and financial
well-being in the United States. Structural racism in the housing system has contributed to stark and
persistent racial disparities in homeownership and access to safe and affordable rental housing.
Faegre Drinker prioritizes work to develop and protect safe and affordable rental housing at every point on
the continuum of service — including impact litigation and policy work, individual case representation and
service at legal advice clinics and homelessness events. This is especially true in representing low-income
renters in landlord-tenant matters. These pro bono efforts include representing clients in eviction
expungement cases, eviction defense matters and in affirmative tenant remedies actions to improve living
conditions in substandard rental properties, including with Minneapolis housing organizations and tenants
featured in the New York Times for their work changing the overall circumstances of their housing. Attorneys
across the firm are closely involved in responding to the expected tsunami of pandemic-related evictions. We
also provide transactional pro bono service to nonprofit developers of low-income and supportive housing.
Faegre Drinker’s pro bono leadership, as well as individual attorneys and legal professionals, are in constant
contact with local community partners to learn about the work they are doing to address racial injustice and
how our law firm can contribute. If you would like to get involved, let us know! We will gladly arrange a
consultation where the pro bono team can learn more about your organization’s work and interests — and
identify areas where your resources intersect with our ongoing efforts.
The road to true racial justice is long, but we are dedicated to effecting change in our areas of influence along
the way. We will continue to keep you updated on our efforts to dismantle systemic racism, and hope that
we can partner with you on this important work in the future.