Port Washington resident Kerry Cooperman has been honored by City & State New York on the 2022 Responsible 100 list. City & State releases its Responsible 100 list each year to highlight individuals who work hard to help their most vulnerable neighbors.
City & State carefully selects business, government, nonprofit and advocacy leaders from hundreds of nominations that display exceptional dedication to improving our communities. This year, Cooperman has been recognized for his work as Special Counsel Director of the Pro Bono Program at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP.
Cooperman was born in Boston and grew up in Great Neck. He and his family, wife Emily, and two young daughters, Bell and Skylar, moved to Port Washington in 2016.
Cooperman began working at Strook about 11 years ago, but law wasn’t always something he wanted to do. In college at the Univerity of Pennsylvania, Cooperman was an English major. During his college career, Cooperman’s passion for writing and learning led him to law.
“I was studying fiction and nonfiction. I took a number of politics classes and did some social justice work,” said Cooperman. “That’s what drove me into the world of law. There is a big crossover between English Majors and Law, particularly for those who like persuasive writing.”
For just under two years, Cooperman has been the full-time director of Stroock’s national Pro Bono Program, also known as the Public Service Project. In addition to the Public Service Project, Cooperman leads the nonprofit and tax-exempt organizations group, where he helps nonprofits both on the pro bono and commercial sides. Stroock has offices across the country in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, and D.C. with hundreds of lawyers and staff members.
Cooperman’s passion and desire to pursue a career involving social, economic and racial injustice started in law school when he taught a juvenile justice class in a low-income neighborhood in inner-city Baltimore. Teaching the juvenile justice class during law school sparked Cooperman’s interest in education and special education in underserved and underprivileged communities, which is one of the important programs Cooperman is involved in at Stroock.
“My role is to connect the lawyers at Stroock, all of them across our offices, as well as our support staff, to particular areas of high need where they have an interest,” said Cooperman. “So we have what I consider our signature pro bono practice areas, where we have very deep expertise, capacity, and interests across our offices.”
There are six areas of service and support in which Stroock’s pro bono program specializes. Anti-racism and racial justice have been core to Stroock’s practice for many years. Special education law and advocacy, immigration law, family law and domestic violence, nonprofit and small business practice and the housing crisis are growing areas in which Stroock’s pro bono program has been supporting.
“My job across all of these areas is to identify the opportunities, connect our lawyers with said opportunities, and then work with our legal service organization and community partners to make the connections and then do the work in the highest impact way that we can,” said Cooperman.
Special education law and advocacy is an area close to Cooperman’s heart because he has been doing that work for many years.
“We’re supporting kids in the cities where we have offices with special education needs and kids with disabilities from underserved, underprivileged backgrounds,” said Cooperman. “All of the work we do is, of course, on a pro bono basis; it’s free. These are families that need it. So we get them the educational placements, programs, and services they’re entitled to.”
There are attorneys at Stroock that are really interested in immigration law, which has become more prominent with a rise in global crises.
We’ve seen the need increase from, for example, the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban and, more recently, the war in Ukraine,” said Cooperman. “We work with LGBTQ+ asylum applicants and a whole range of other asylum applicants who have been subjected to political persecution.”
Family law and domestic violence are handled by Stroock and involve supporting women and their children who are subjected to domestic violence.
“We do protective orders, we do child custody cases, and a whole range of other kinds of cases in family courts,” said Cooperman.
Stroock has formed a significant nonprofit and small business, or micro-enterprise, practice that’s become a crucial part to the pro bono program.
“We view them as the frontline. We like to take obligations and responsibilities off their plate so they can focus on the communities and constituencies that they serve,” said Cooperman. “In supporting small businesses and micro enterprises, we center that around local, regional, and national disasters. Disaster relief is a very important part of our program and one of the things we’re nationally known for.”
Due to the pandemic, the pro bono program formed the Small Business Legal Relief Alliance, a whole alliance of law firms to help small businesses facing existential problems resulting from the pandemic.
“We continue the Small Business Legal Relief Alliance work today. It is just as important today as it was at the height of the pandemic,” said Cooperman. “These small businesses are still experiencing ‘long COVID’, which people who have had COVID understand to be long-term effects from COVID. I think small businesses are experiencing the same thing in terms of economic long COVID.”
Housing has been becoming increasingly important due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“With our housing practice, we support individuals at risk of losing their homes and those suffering from uninhabitable housing conditions,” said Cooperman.
Aside from the core focuses, anything the pro bono team is interested in working in, Cooperman helps find and make the connection. Cooperman lists election protection work, LGBTQ+ rights, and reproductive justice work as just a few of the other areas Stroock focuses on.
“It’s my full-time role to identify the highest impact opportunities and connect our lawyers to them. It’s great to work at a place that has a full-time role for this,” said Cooperman.
While Cooperman is excited to be honored for his work, he appreciates how the recognition from City & State helps to energize programs like the one Stroock has run for many years.
“The most important thing is if this can motivate and inspire our attorneys and staff to take an extra case, to identify a new opportunity, or call me or one of my colleagues wanting to learn more about what opportunities are out there,” said Cooperman. “I think that’s the value of these awards. It’s how the recipients and the organizations they’re associated with use it as an opportunity to inspire and create opportunities.”
To learn more about City & State New York’s 2022 Responsible 100, visit cityandstateny.com