Press Releases

November 21, 2014

Hernan Vera to Leave Public Counsel

Longtime president leaves legacy of incredible growth; nation’s largest pro bono law firm launches nationwide search for successor

LOS ANGELES – Public Counsel's longtime President and CEO, Hernán D. Vera, will leave Public Counsel after nearly 13 years with the organization to become a litigation partner at Bird, Marella, Boxer, Wolpert, Nessim, Drooks, Lincenberg & Rhow, P.C. Vera joined Public Counsel in May 2002 as Directing Attorney of its Consumer Law Project and became President and CEO in March 2008 following a national search.

During Vera’s tenure as president, Public Counsel more than doubled in size. The nation’s largest pro bono law firm now has 130 staff and more than 5,000 volunteers helping people in need. Vera also led the creation of an impact litigation focus area, increased Public Counsel’s presence in Sacramento, launched a national project to represent veterans, and opened offices in the Bay Area and New York. The incredible growth under Vera’s leadership was matched by an expansion in Public Counsel’s core work of providing free legal help to those in need with the support of the nation's largest law firms, leading corporations and top law schools.

Public Counsel has announced plans for a national search for a new CEO to replace Vera.  Rand April, a former Board Chair and previously the Managing Partner of the Los Angeles office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, will serve as interim President and CEO commencing January 2015. Former Public Counsel Board Chairs Stephen E. Pickett and Gail Migdal Title will be Co-Chairs of the Search Committee.

In 2013, Public Counsel and its pro bono partners assisted over 30,000 individuals and nonprofit organizations, providing over $80 million in free assistance.

"I am enormously proud of the contribution Public Counsel makes every day to giving our clients a chance they would otherwise not have and to fighting aggressively the many forms of injustice that our communities face. It has been a singular honor to have led this great organization," Vera said. “Bird Marella sets the gold standard for litigation practice and professionalism. I am absolutely delighted to begin the next stage of my career at a nationally recognized firm whose lawyers share my values and commitment to justice.”

Daniel Clivner of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, who became Chairperson of Public Counsel's Board in October, remarked, “For more than twelve years, Hernan has provided Public Counsel and our thousands of clients with skillful advocacy and passionate service. Although Hernán will be leaving, our mission of providing equal justice and quality legal services continues as it has for four decades. We are grateful to Rand April for agreeing to serve as our interim CEO and confident our search for a new CEO will attract a wide array of spirited and accomplished candidates.”

"It is an honor to be given the opportunity to lead this great organization,” said Rand April, who will serve as interim CEO. “Today Public Counsel helps more people than ever before in its 44-year history, and I look forward to supporting the work of our talented staff and committed pro bono partners during this transition.”

“We are extremely excited that Hernán is joining Bird Marella,” said Mitchell Kamin and Paul Chan, co-managing partners of Bird, Marella, Boxer, Wolpert, Nessim, Drooks, Lincenberg & Rhow, P.C. “He is an accomplished litigator and a true leader in the legal community who has cultivated strong relationships within both the public and private sectors. We know he will contribute to the continued success of the firm and look forward to much great work together.”

Under Vera’s leadership, Public Counsel took major steps to expand justice for all:

  • Established its Center for Veterans’ Advancement with offices in Los Angeles and New York to honor our nation’s promise to veterans.
  • Launched the Opportunity Under Law initiative with the hiring of Mark Rosenbaum, Anne Richardson and Gary Blasi to end economic injustice through broad-scale impact litigation and generating public support.
  • Opened a Bay Area office with Statewide Education Rights Director Laura Faer, who has helped lead the campaign against harsh school discipline in California.
  • Reached a milestone of 8,000 children adopted from foster care in partnership with the Los Angeles County Superior Court.
  • Filed groundbreaking litigation including Franco v. Holder (on behalf of immigrants with mental disabilities), Reed v. State (to protect students from the impact of budget based teacher layoffs), Bautista v. Cal-OSHA (to prevent heat illness and death among California farm workers), and TCAL v. Lancaster (to end discrimination against black and Latino families receiving federal housing support).
  • Created the Federal Pro Se Clinic, which has become a national model for closing the justice gap in federal courts.

About us: Public Counsel is the nation’s largest pro bono law firm handling impact litigation, pursuing legislative change, and providing direct legal services that reach more than 30,000 people every year in California and across the nation.