Ajay Patel is associate general counsel at Amazon Studios, in Santa Monica. When he arrived at Amazon, he brought his deep commitment to pro bono legal work. A decade ago, Patel was named Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year by the State Bar of California. Since moving over to Amazon, Patel has worked closely with the Amazon legal department to help make pro bono work an important part of the culture. Last year, the Association of Corporate Counsel’s Southern California chapter chose the members of Amazon Studios’ legal team as the Corporate Pro Bono Lawyers of the Year for their work helping families through the adoption process.

Congratulations on the award the Studios Teams won for its pro bono work related to uncontested adoptions.
The whole team was thrilled. It’s great to be at a company that lets us make time to do this type of important activity. And as a team, it was a great way for us to bond by doing something meaningful outside of our day-to-day to work.

When you came to Amazon, did you know about Amazon’s commitment to pro bono work?
When I came over here, I knew how important pro bono work was to David Zapolsky because he consistently reminded us of the value in doing this type of activity.

Did the team find it challenging to switch and focus on adoption-related legal issues, rather than their Amazon Studios work?
When we do these pro bono projects, we partner with nonprofits that are set up to assist us on these projects. We worked with an organization called Public Counsel, who trained our attorneys, identified clients, and connected us with them. We’ve been working on uncontested adoptions involving foster families who seek to adopt their foster children. Our work includes doing an assessment of the client, filing court paperwork, making sure the client’s case is in order, and finally making an appearance in court to formalize the adoption.

What’s it like on Adoption Day when your legal team goes to court?
All the adoptions we’ve worked on take place at the Children’s Court on National Adoption Day in the fall. The court rooms are filled with judges and attorneys volunteering for Adoption Day. The judges all have teddy bears in court, and it creates a very friendly environment, especially for the children. For the lawyers, it feels good knowing that our work ensures that more families and kids will formally get to be considered as families because of the work that we did.

What other pro bono projects is Amazon legal working on?
We have more than one hundred attorneys and legal professionals from Amazon offices nationwide and the law firm Davis, Wright & Tremaine working on unaccompanied minor immigration cases. And this past year we had more than 35 lawyers and legal professionals from our Los Angeles, Seattle, and San Francisco offices take part in Constitution Day. We created a presentation and shared it in 66 middle- and high school classrooms to teach more than 2,500 children about the Constitution.