Pro bono work and corporate citizenship are a major focus for individual attorneys as well as law firms. With attorneys responding to major social issues, such as immigrant detention, we were curious how law firms make their community and pro bono work a key part of their culture. We talked with the managing partners of large firms’ local offices to find out how their national scope fits in with their local community work.
We talked with Jared Briant, Denver office managing partner of Faegre Baker Daniels; Cole Finegan, regional managing partner of Hogan Lovells; and Tami Goodlette, managing partner of the Colorado offices of Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie.
LAW WEEK: Will you give me the rundown of how the pro bono and community work of Faegre Baker Daniels is structured here and what projects the local office is involved in?
JARED BRIANT: We’re a national rm, so the Colorado offices collectively are a big piece of that national rm. One of the things with pro bono and community service is that we actually have a pro bono manager resident here in Denver. She’s been with the rm for quite a while, and one of the things I appreciate about this is that having someone on the ground here helps us marry up interests of the lawyers with opportunities in the community.
We look at it nationally and holistically, but at the same time, we have very specific interests and programs that we run out of the Colorado offices, and I don’t know that we’d be able to do that if we didn’t have a manager dedicated to pro bono.
Some of the more prominent local initiatives we have in this space: We founded several clinics that we regularly run. One of those is a partnership with Metro Volunteer Lawyers. We run a post-decree clinic here in Denver where we assist low income parents with parenting time custody, support and those types of issues after the divorce proceedings.
More recently, we started up a guardianship clinic as well. And then we also founded a clinic with the Sister Carmen Community Center in Lafayette to help low-income parents and individuals within a range of issues.
I think it’s the result of being in this community for a long time, we’ve been able to identify what we see are needs in the community and not just do one off type programs.
There are great opportunities for a whole bunch of reasons. We get to partner with important public agencies, and the clinics in particular are just a great opportunity to get lawyers of all experiences and all backgrounds and staff collaborating together on projects.
LAW WEEK: Can you talk a little bit about the community aspect within the rm that comes from that collaboration?
BRIANT: A commitment to pro bono is a core value of our rm and it’s an expectation we impose upon our- selves that we are good corporate citizens, both in the pro bono space as well as just community service space as well.
The primary benefit I think we see from that is we get to live and work in a better community. That’s the number one benefit, but in addition to that, I think it helps with recruiting. I think it helps with retention, it helps with overall job satisfaction. It allows people to follow their passion that might be outside of their regular practice area.
And that is something that’s recognized by the rm. Like a number of other firms, we have a policy where for associates, up to 100 hours or so is recognized as the same equivalent to billable hours. But being a litigator, myself, I know that if I take on a pro bono case, it doesn’t just magically stop at 100 hours. It’s a several- hundred hour commitment, and that is also something that’s recognized by the rm, just in the in the non-objective way, it’s like this is an important contribution that you’re making to our practice and to our community and so we hear all the time from lawyers that these are some of the most rewarding experiences to them.