Putting on a Clinic
Robert F. Redmond Jr. puts the pro in pro bono
Published in 2016 Virginia Super Lawyers magazine
By Jessica Tam on April 7, 2016
After nearly 20 years as a trial attorney—with more than 10,000 cases under his belt—Robert F. Redmond Jr. set his sights on a new challenge.
“I thought if we can do mass tort litigation across the country, we could probably do a pro bono clinic in Richmond,” says the partner at McGuireWoods.
All he needed was a group to help. In the early 2000s, he found one: the state’s growing community of new immigrants.
In 2005, Redmond founded a pro bono clinic with the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to serve Hispanic immigrants. He says it was a worthy challenge because the population was largely underserved and he had never practiced immigration law before. The population’s most critical areas of need, he says, were immigration status and unpaid wages claims.
Those who seek out the clinic for immigration status are trying to keep/maintain it or achieve it for the first time, he says. “It’s up to the lawyer to try to figure out a path to get that.”
Earlier this year at the clinic, Redmond represented a client who he believed had a very strong asylum claim. “[The client] was in deportation proceedings, but we convinced the judge to close the proceedings and allow him to pursue his asylum claim through the asylum office,” says Redmond. Because the asylum office is more of an administrative and less adversarial process than deportation proceedings, he says, “That was a real win.”
Redmond racks up between 120 and 180 hours a year working on pro bono cases, some of which come from the clinic he founded, or other avenues, like a clinic at the University of Virginia School of Law. He notes that he has been reasonably successful, but “it’s like anything else in the practice of law: you win some, you lose some, but you’ve just got to keep trying.”
The State Bar noticed and, in 2012, honored Redmond with the Lewis F. Powell Jr. Pro Bono Award—a notoriously selective recognition that isn’t even given out annually if the Bar doesn’t feel it has been earned.
But he didn’t do it for the hardware—or, more specifically, for the framed Patrick Henry print.
“I really do believe sincerely that lawyers are obligated to provide pro bono work to help maintain the judicial system,” says Redmond. “The judicial system has existed for centuries, and it allows an attorney to make a good living. But as someone who participates in the system, you have to give back.”
Redmond says doing so requires “really rigorous scheduling.” His practice is heavy on asbestos and silica litigation, and, at any given time, he’s working on 50 active cases. His work takes him all over the country; he’s admitted to practice in four states and has appeared pro hac vice in “probably another 20.” Plus, last August, Redmond started a two-year term as head of the pro bono committee for the International Association of Defense Counsel.
“What do they say?” he asks. “’If you want something done, give it to a busy person?’ So I try to keep in that zone.”
While politics isn’t his zone, he acknowledges that immigration is a hot topic this election year.
“I think the whole issue of illegal immigration is working itself through the system,” he says. “In five to 10 years, you’re really going to see, basically, the children who are U.S. citizens, going to take steps either politically or judicially or administratively to somehow regularize the status of their parents, and this whole issue will kind of eventually disappear.”
In the meantime, Redmond will continue his pro bono work. “As long as you maintain a full practice, you can do a lot—as long as you like it,” he says. “And I like what I do.”
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