Mary Gay Scanlon Resigns Pro Bono Post to Join 115th Congress; Litigator and Pro Bono Advocate Lisa Swaminathan Named Successor
As Mary Gay Scanlon prepares to take the oath of office for the U.S. House of Representatives, Ballard Spahr announced today that Lisa B. Swaminathan—a former litigator at the firm and a well-known juvenile justice advocate—has been tapped to succeed Ms. Scanlon as leader of the firm's acclaimed pro bono program.
Ms. Scanlon, a Democrat, won the election to represent Pennsylvania's newly redrawn 5th District last Tuesday, as well as the special election to serve out the remaining term of Republican former Rep. Patrick Meehan in Pennsylvania's 7th District. She will be sworn into office tomorrow evening by outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan.
"The pro bono work we've done at Ballard has given me a view into the real-world challenges faced by people and businesses struggling to succeed," Ms. Scanlon said. "I will take that understanding to Washington and work for change. This program has changed people's lives. It's changed my life. And it couldn't be in better hands than Lisa's."
Ms. Swaminathan will join the firm as pro bono counsel on December 10. In that role, she will oversee a program through which Ballard Spahr attorneys across the firm's 15 offices donate roughly 50,000 hours of free legal services each year to people in need. She also will chair the firm's Pro Bono Committee.
"Ballard Spahr does not have mandatory pro bono, yet it has a 90 percent participation rate. Pro bono service is part of the fabric of the firm," said Ms. Swaminathan. "Mary Gay has built an exceptional program, and I'm honored to have a chance to help it continue to grow and thrive."
Ms. Swaminathan joins the firm from Juvenile Law Center, where she was a staff attorney who worked to enforce and advance the legal rights of children. Before entering the nonprofit sector, she was a litigation associate at Ballard Spahr, where she represented clients in commercial disputes and took part in many of the firm’s most challenging pro bono cases. She also served an externship and was a staff attorney with Community Legal Services, one of the nation's premier social justice nonprofits.
At Ballard Spahr, Ms. Swaminathan was part of the team that successfully challenged Pennsylvania's widespread use of civil forfeiture. Her work helped raise the standard of proof needed to confiscate property in Pennsylvania and expanded protections for property owners facing claims.
"Lisa's pro bono service at the firm made a difference for countless clients," said Ballard Spahr Chair Mark Stewart. "She brings dedication and experience to the position, and I have no doubt that the exceptional work that is Ballard's hallmark will continue under her leadership."
The program—which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year—this summer received the prestigious Pro Bono Publico Award from the American Bar Association. Ms. Scanlon served as its director for 15 years, during which time more than half a million hours of free legal services were donated to nonprofit organizations, businesses, and individuals in need.
Pro bono lawyers at the firm successfully enforced civil rights protections for people with disabilities, veterans, and victims of discrimination based on race, gender, and sexual orientation. It secured asylum for refugees, enforced voter protection laws, provided thousands of hours of free estate planning to first responders, and provided access to justice to people who otherwise could not have afforded quality legal representation.
"Rarely do we achieve firm-wide agreement on any subject, but Mary Gay's success in building a pro bono program that is second to none is one of those things," Mr. Stewart said. "She is universally admired for the passion and tireless effort she brings to her work; her deeply held belief that pro bono enhances the firm's standing; and her ability to inspire us to see and address the growing problem of a legal system that ignores, abandons, or abuses the underserved. Her dedication to helping others has elevated the firm and will serve the country well."