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Law Firms Use “Gorilla Tactics” to Fight Poverty

February 15, 2019

There’s no law that says you can’t have a little fun in the fight against poverty. That’s exactly what the Koko challenge is all about. The top legal minds in San Francisco come together and battle it out to see who can raise the most money – and have the most fun in the process. Award winners are recognized not only for their fundraising acumen, but also for their innovation, enthusiasm and best practices.  

We’d like to thank our 2018 Koko Challenge winners for making such an incredible difference in the lives of struggling Bay Area families. Koko would be proud! 

Big Koko (100+ lawyers): Pillsbury
Little Koko (50-100 lawyers): Jones Day
Baby Koko (1-49 lawyers): King & Spalding 

This year’s Big Koko winner, Pillsbury, has been an enthusiastic participant in the Koko Challenge since 1992. This award marks their 17th win in 26 years of competing with the Bay Area’s biggest law firms.  

“Pillsbury first joined the Koko Challenge in 1992 in the spirit of competition to give back to the community, build morale, and have fun,” says Roxane Palidora, San Francisco Managing Partner, “…this victory means that we continue our ongoing dedication to help those most vulnerable in our communities. It also means that Big Koko will stay on the sofa in our reception area where she belongs.” 

A Little History 

Over the past 30 years, the Koko Challenge has recognized Bay Area law firms in their commitment to ending poverty. Firms compete in one of three categories based on size, and there are other contests as well. Over the past three decades, our legal community has raised an astounding $33 million in support of United Way’s efforts to create a brighter future for all Bay Area residents. 

Here’s how the contest works. Law firms commit to running an internal fundraising campaign, which typically includes a pledge drive, employee gift matching and a series of events to raise money for United Way’s poverty-fighting work. People go all out. We’ve seen everything from bocce ball and ping-pong tournaments to whiskey and chocolate tastings! The firm that donates and volunteers the most in each category receives a coveted stuffed gorilla and, more importantly, bragging rights for the next year. 

About Koko the Gorilla
The Koko awards were named in honor of Koko the Gorilla, a western lowland gorilla born at the San Francisco Zoo in 1971. Koko was famous for learning a modified form of American Sign Language and had a working vocabulary of over 1,000 signs. A local celebrity, she was featured on the cover of National Geographic. She lived in Woodside, California until age 46—well past the life expectancy for a gorilla. Her “ambassadors” still attend the Koko awards today.  

Interested in joining our class action against poverty in 2019? Please contact Channa Grebe at