A pro bono team from Latham & Watkins’ Litigation & Trial Department won an award in the annual Financial Times Innovative Lawyers – North America report for the historic resolution of litigation affecting the 2020 US Census. The Department was also awarded for a creative attorney training initiative.
The pro bono team received the Innovation in Racial Justice award for a landmark series of cases affecting the US Census in which Latham litigators and organizations representing historically undercounted populations reached a settlement that guaranteed a more fair and more accurate US Census – including victories in US District Court, without which Census field operations would have terminated early and resulted in an undercount. Focusing on the importance of the Census in determining the allocation of political representation and federal funding over the ensuing 10 years, the Financial Times noted in an article profiling the work that “in taking on this lawsuit, in what ultimately became the only federal case standing in the way of the government’s [early termination] plan, the firm highlighted the role that lawyers can play in rectifying systemic racial inequalities.”
“One of the arguments we made was not so much ‘do what we think is right,’ but to do what the Census Bureau’s own experts said was the right way to do things. It really should not be a political or a politically motivated process. It should be driven by the statisticians and the experts in the field,” said Washington, D.C. litigation partner Melissa Arbus Sherry, who co-led with partner Sadik Huseny a Latham pro bono team involving over 50 lawyers and staff.
The second award for Innovation in People & Skills honored the firm for developing Observation Deck, a technology platform that provides Latham lawyers a curated roster of hearings, trials, and other proceedings inviting firm colleagues to view online as they occur. As courts transitioned to virtual proceedings following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the change risked depriving both young and seasoned lawyers of valuable exposure to in-court hearings and trials. Latham lawyers and technology staff developed and launched Observation Deck early in 2020, and it has proven to be an unprecedented opportunity for the firm’s litigators to virtually observe their colleagues across the Department in action, and later ask questions to learn directly from the lawyers involved. In its coverage commending Observation Deck for compiling hundreds of case proceedings across dozens of jurisdictions, the Financial Times noted, “These hearings are kept in a searchable database and the list is updated regularly to help associates find trials relevant to their practice area or a particular point of law.” The FT honor is the fourth award bestowed on Observation Deck this year by media organizations that recognize innovations in the legal sector.
Latham was named a finalist in the category for Innovation in Dispute Resolution for the work of a securities litigation team to secure a complete defense verdict representing client NextGen Healthcare in a landmark case cited by the FT as “the first claim of its kind tried before a jury in the US in 86 years, and a first in California, creating an important precedent.”
Michele Johnson, Global Chair of the Litigation & Trial Department, said of the successes: “These recognitions demonstrate the consistently high quality of the litigation strategies we deploy for clients, the collaborative spirit among Latham colleagues, and the innovative approaches we take to vital issues such as social justice and talent development. I’m grateful to my Latham colleagues and to the community organizations with which we partner, all of whom work tirelessly to achieve these important outcomes.”