OAD’s Volunteer Appellate Defender (VAD) Program offers Associates in sponsoring law firms the opportunity to represent poor people convicted of felonies in criminal appeals under the intensive supervision of OAD Supervising Attorneys.

Training and Supervision

Under the close supervision of an OAD Supervising Attorney, the VAD handles all phases of appellate representation, from communications with the client, to briefing and arguing the case in the Appellate Division, First Department. Because each VAD is supervised by an OAD Supervising Attorney, participating firms save significant in-house partner resources both in terms of time and litigation costs.

Time Commitment for Volunteers

The average commitment of a volunteer attorney is about 125 hours. The appellate courts allow ample time to file a brief and offers weeks of advance notice before argument. Therefore VADs can work the program into their existing caseloads. Other than oral argument and client visits, almost all other workflow is very flexible.

Time Commitment for Partners & Coordinators

The VAD supervision model allows partners or coordinators to offer as much, or as little, supervision as they choose to the VAD cases. The OAD Supervising Attorney ensures that the VAD’s representation is of the highest quality and that the client relationship and litigation experience is substantive and meaningful.

VAD Success in the Courts

Many of our VAD participants have had the honor of arguing in New York’s high court, and in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Where post-conviction relief for a criminal defendant in New York occurs in less than 5% of cases, VAD participants have achieved a 15% success rate in the courts. 

Sponsorship Contribution

VAD is open to Associates in sponsoring law firms. Sponsorship contributions are typically structured so that firms sponsor either four or two cases per year. The per case cost is often significantly less than the billable hours usually spent by a partner or senior associate supervising other pro bono cases or the litigation costs involved in civil pro bono matters. The sponsorship contribution is tax-deductible.

Current Volunteer Appellate Defender Firms

Alston & Bird LLP

Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton LLP

Covington & Burling LLP

Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP

Davis, Polk, & Wardwell LLP

Debevoise & Plimpton LLP

Dechert LLP

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP

Holwell Shuster & Goldberg LLP

Kaplan, Hecker, & Fink LLP

Lankler Siffert & Wohl LLP

Orrick, Herrington, & Sutcliffe LLP

Sullivan & Cromwell LLP

Wachtel, Lipton, Rosen & Katz

Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP

Zuckerman Spaeder LLP


People v. Coulibaly

Securing reversal and dismissal of the indictment.

Brenton T. Culpepper & Anna Dimon

Milbank LLP

People v. Folk

Securing reversal on two of three counts.

Elizabeth Moulton

Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP

For More Information About OAD's Volunteer Appellate Defender Program

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