When a firm like Zane Specter Litt takes a pro bono case -- giving high-powered help to a client who can’t afford high-powered fees -- it shows that the lawyers there care about more than just themselves. At least, that’s what Jessica Pearson (Gina Torres) told Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht) way back in the very first Suits episode ever. But recently, new managing partner Robert Zane (Wendell Pierce) was a lot less charitable when COO Donna Paulsen (Sarah Rafferty) suggested taking on some pro bono cases. Funnily enough, then Donna and Samantha Wheeler (Katherine Heigl) worked together on Donna’s pet charity project, it ended up smoothing out some of the tension between them. It wasn’t the first time a pro bono case had unexpected benefits for the firm and its personnel. Remember these?
1. In the Beginning…
In Season 1’s “Pilot,” Jessica said she couldn’t justify handing Harvey a promotion to senior partner on the same day that he lost a big client. But later she decided she would give him the promotion, if he did something for her: personally handle a pro bono case. He promised not to pass it off to someone else. But he totally handed it off -- to newly minted associate Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams). The case involved Nancy, former secretary to the president of Devlin MacGregor, who said she was sexually harassed by her boss and then fired when she complained to human resources. And it showed us just how well Mike and Harvey worked together, as they leveraged her former boss’s scheme to promote false testimony in the case and won a settlement for Nancy.
Also in Season 1, Louis Litt (Rick Hoffman) held a Harvard trivia contest for the associates, and Mike won. His reward? A pro bono case of his very own. It involved Frank, who had lived in his apartment since childhood. But ever since a guy named Karinski bought the building two years earlier, the place became rundown -- and the bedbug problem reached epidemic proportions. Everyone at the firm thought Mike would win easily, but instead he was trounced by Karinski’s lawyer. Luckily, that was only Round One. With help from Rachel and former tenants of Karinski’s other buildings, Mike showed how the landlord had deliberately bugged-out his properties so people would leave. Then he could remodel and charge new renters more money. Mike not only won the case but also brought in 15 new paying clients who wanted a piece of Karinski too. Win-win!
3. The Non-Starters
In Season 5, Jessica’s attitude toward pro bono cases totally changed. Or maybe she rejected the idea of taking on multiple pro bono cases to impress Pearson Specter Litt’s shrinking client list because it came from shady senior partner Jack Soloff (John Pyper-Ferguson). In “God’s Green Earth,” Jack told Jessica that going pro bono was the best way to fix PSL’s reputation after a damaging op-ed in the Journal insinuated that at least one partner at the firm knew Mike was a fraud. But just as Jack got the ball rolling, Jessica pulled that magic carpet right out from under him, snarling that she wasn’t going to cower in some pro bono corner, trying to convince their clients that she’s nice. She’s not nice — she’s fierce!
4. An Innocent Man
In Season 6, pro bono literally became a case of life or death, when Rachel Zane (Meghan Markle) fought to overturn the death-row conviction of Leonard Bailey (Glenn Plummer), wrongly convicted of murder. First, Rachel convinced Jessica to take the case, even though the firm was struggling to survive. Then, Rachel saw Leonard through a series of heart-stopping twists and turns. Along the way she learned that a lawyer needs to know how to ask for a favor as she enlisted the help of both her father and Mike. When Rachel uncovered the evidence she needed, Jessica convinced the judge that Leonard lost 12 years of his life for a crime he didn’t commit. The judge agreed. All that was left for Leonard was to walk out that door -- a free man.
5. Prison Break
In Season 7, Mike took on the wrongful-death case of prisoner Chris Reyes, busted for an ounce of marijuana, who died just a month short of being paroled. The case hit close to home for Mike. But Harvey had to put on the brakes, because Mike was fighting with the prison’s builders, Masterson Construction, a client of Alex Williams (Dulé Hill). Mike got his buddy Oliver at the legal clinic to take the case instead. Harvey even made Mike sign an agreement not to get involved, but Mike secretly kept working on it -- and Rachel found out. She and Harvey were furious. Worse, Alex confronted Mike in court and got the case thrown out. Mike kept pushing hard to save the prisoners. And Harvey rescued Alex from what turned out to be the real problem: an old, shady deal Alex got pulled into involving Masterson and his former employer, Bratton Gould.
6. Family Business
In another Season 7 pro bono case, Robert asked Rachel to work with him on the case of a bank with predatory loan officers targeting people of color. Rachel was thrilled to bond with her dad, but when the usually unflappable Robert lost his cool in court, she found out that his interest in the case was personal. Years earlier, his sister worked for the bank’s CEO, who sexually harassed her. Robert was just a young lawyer then, and he didn’t stand up for his sister because he was afraid he would lose his own job. But, as he told Rachel, seeing Mike risk his job for the prisoners inspired him to try to get justice for his sister at last. His anger still nearly got the best of the case, but eventually Rachel figured out a way to make the CEO pay.
Sometimes there's more to the bottom line than meets the eye. Meet Dr. Max Goodwin, who's going to help any way he can, when New Amsterdam premieres Sept. 25 on NBC!