Miriam Buhl ’92, pro bono counsel for Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, received the Center for Constitutional Rights’ 2018 Changemakers award this month in recognition of her work supporting CCR’s successful prison reform efforts in California and defending Native American rights.
Buhl has coordinated Weil Gotshal’s award-winning worldwide pro bono program since 2005. Notably, a Weil Gotshal team of more than 75 lawyers, paralegals, and support staff devoted more than 5,000 pro bono hours in the landmark settlement agreement in Ashker v. California, the class-action lawsuit that ended indefinite solitary confinement in California prisons. In addition to Ashker, Weil Gotshal has partnered with CCR on another prison reform matter, a lawsuit brought by journalist Amy Goodman, and the defense of Native Americans’ rights to land and religious ceremony.
“It’s a thrill and an enormous honor for the firm because of how special CCR is,” Buhl said of the Changemakers award, praising the nonprofit for its unique willingness to take on the toughest, most challenging legal issues. “Being their partner and co-counsel is something we at Weil Gotshal take very seriously, and we work hard every day to earn that privilege.”
Buhl was presented the award on Oct. 18 at CCR’s second annual Changemakers awards, honoring advocates, lawyers, and artists who stand up for social justice. The honor is the latest in Buhl’s highly decorated career. She’s also been the recipient of the Legal Aid Society’s Pro Bono Counsel of the Year in 2006, Fordham Law’s Louis J. Lefkowitz Public Service Award in 2012, the Feerick Center for Social Justice’s Spirit of Service award in 2014, and the Innocence Project’s Advocate for Justice award in 2017.
In 2016, Weil’s 1,100 attorneys performed over 53,000 hours of pro bono work on a diverse set of issues, including human rights, economic development, and corporate governance. Pro bono work is now considered a must in the portfolio of great law firms.
“It’s our ethical obligation,” Buhl said, noting it’s not difficult to convince her firm’s attorneys to participate in public service. “It’s what everybody loves most about their practice,” she explained.
Buhl, who has served on the Fordham Public Service Advisory Council since 2017 and is a board member of the International Refugee Assistance Project, advises students to inquire about firms’ pro bono practice during interviews. She credits her Fordham Law classmates for supporting the efforts of public service–focused students and for the efforts of the Law School in general to live up to its “In the Service of Others” motto.
“I always felt Fordham students were good, and it was a real pleasure to be in school with them,” Buhl said. “I feel very grateful to Fordham for giving me the early support and encouragement, and I feel really proud to call myself a Fordham alumna.”