Law360 Article Highlights VOLS’ Work, Values, and Mission

May 21, 2014

We were thrilled to be mentioned in Law360’s May 20, 2014 piece, 5 Tips for Getting the Most out of your Pro Bono Work, an article that summarized the essence of VOLS' core strategies for strengthening pro bono programs.

In the article, writer Andrew Strickler highlights the importance of “match[ing] pro bono work to lawyers’ individual interests.” “With a little creativity and a sharper pitch,” he writes, “program coordinators can also lure in more senior lawyers with intellectually engaging or high-profile work, while still serving up one-size-fits-all matters that can make a real impact on under-served communities.” At VOLS, we pride ourselves on offering an array of rewarding pro bono opportunities that will meet the diverse interests and skills of pro bono volunteers.

Strickler’s five tips align with VOLS' strategies. Indeed, he points to VOLS' Microenterprise Project as a prime example.

Start a Pro Bono Clinic in Firm Offices

Strickler recommends starting a pro bono clinic in the firm's office, and points to Simpson Thacher's work for low-income business owners and entrepreneurs.

"Working with New York City pro bono service group Volunteers of Legal Service, [Simpson Thacher] lawyers meet twice a week with two prescreened clients, providing short-term, limited-scope advice on launching or growing a business... In 2013, more than 60 Simpson Thacher attorneys dedicated 600 hours in the clinic. The program also got some favorable press last year when a mom-and-son team launched Harlem’s first vegan soul food restaurant based on a business plan started with the firm’s pro bono support.”

Simpson Thacher spoke highly of their experiences with the VOLS Microenterprise Project and Start Small Think Big, another nonprofit, commenting that the small business clinic “is one of our most successful pro bono projects and is well-matched to the schedule, skills, and expertise of our transactional attorneys."

Develop an Institutional Client

"The bread-and-butter of pro bono work remains discreet, single-client matters such as a landlord-tenant dispute or criminal defense for an indigent person. But experts said firms looking to boost their pro bono practices should also be developing institutional pro bono clients... like a school or nonprofit health facility"

This is exactly what we help law firms do through our Hospital- and School-based Children's Projects. In our Hospital-based Children's Project, we build long-term relationships between firms, hospital pediatric units, and other health organizations. Pro bono lawyers work with hospital staff to identify and resolve legal issues that may affect children's health outcomes, such as forcing a landlord to repair crumbling and peeling paint that may exacerbate a child's asthma.

Similarly, in our School-based Children's Project, we build relationships between schools and law firms, and volunteers resolve legal issues in areas such as housing, immigration, and public benefits, that threaten to disrupt children's education. In both projects, the relationships that start with volunteer lawyers serving individual patients and students often grow to include other important activities. In the Hospital-based Children's Project, firms often provide hospital staff with training on key legal issues. And, in the School-based project, law firms have helped with career days and a mock trial experiences.

Working with VOLS

If you and your firm are interested in upping the ante on your pro bono work or want to make the most out of Law 360’s valuable five tips, contact Associate Director, Sara Effron, at seffron@volsprobono.org.