Balancing Practice and Pro Bono

Eric Kim, VLS '13 and J. Gordon Cooney, Jr, VLS '84

Villanova University School of Law alumni such as J. Gordon Cooney, Jr. ’84 (pictured with VLS student Eric Kim ’13), are proof that “Big Law” success and a commitment to serving others are not mutually exclusive.  Cooney, Managing Partner of the Morgan Lewis Philadelphia office, has a thriving, demanding practice while devoting much of his time to pro bono work.

For more than 20 years, Cooney fought alongside his Morgan Lewis colleagues on the legal team for John Thompson, a Louisiana man who had been wrongfully convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 1985 after a trial tainted by prosecutorial misconduct. Thompson was imprisoned for 18 years—14 of which were spent on death row in solitary confinement—until Cooney and his colleagues won his release. He went on to argue the subsequent civil suit, Connick v. Thompson, in front of the Supreme Court of the United States in 2010.

For Cooney, the seeds of social change were sown in the halls of VLS, where its Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition encourages students to serve as champions of the law in the fight for social progress and justice.

“At Villanova, I discovered that the rule of law and principles of social justice are at the heart of the legal profession,” said Cooney. “And Morgan Lewis exemplifies that commitment, too.”