Tami Goodlette, Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie
The Colorado offices of the Arizona-based firm focus on tapping into individual attorneys’ passions as well as a firmwide effort on pro bono immigration cases

by Tony Flesor

LAW WEEK: What types of pro bono projects is Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie involved in?

TAMI GOODLETTE: We do a variety of different types of work with individual lawyers taking on different kinds of pro bono work. And then also groups of lawyers taking on pro bono work.

We do a lot of that through the U.S. District Court Civil Pro Bono Panel. We do a fair amount through the federal court’s pro se clinic. We do some Habitat for Humanity work, Colorado Lawyers Committee and the Colorado Civil Appellate Panel and then there’s also the Faculty of Federal Advocates’ bankruptcy pro bono panel, and we fairly regularly have bankruptcy cases that we help with there. So there’s a variety of outlets and ways that we encourage the attorneys to participate in pro bono.

LAW WEEK: How did each of those projects get identified?

GOODLETTE: Some of them are just through individual lawyers’ dedication to certain groups throughout the state of Colorado and the Denver Metro area. For example, one of our partners, Chad Caby, is a bankruptcy attorney and specialist, and he has worked with the bankruptcy pro bono panel through the Faculty of Federal Advocates for years, so he’s really expanded our participation in that pro- gram and the pro bono panel.

Sometimes it’s through individual lawyer connections and what they value and want to spend their pro bono time on, and they spread that to other attorneys in the rm. And next thing you know, we’re a regular participant or promoter of pro bono work or taking on cases through an individual methodology.

I think what’s important, is really that we want to promote individual lawyers’ passions and what they see as important in their communities and with their clients and in our greater state, so we do that with our young lawyers as well.

We talk to them about: What are you interested in? What are the community groups that you want to be involved in? Which boards do you want to be on? What kind of pro bono work would you like to do? Would you like to do something where you’re actually representing individuals in litigation? If so, we’ll get you involved in the program over on the federal court. Would you prefer to do something where you go to legal night, for example, and help folks who have somewhat more routine legal questions on a weekly or biweekly basis? There are all different kinds of ways to get involved, and we try to bring an individual approach to what each individual attorney feels passionate about and what they want to do in the future and dedicate some time for pro bono work.

LAW WEEK: So on that note, tell me a little bit about the overall focus of the firm on those types of projects. What do you think the role is for attorneys in getting involved in that?

GOODLETTE: We certainly have an expectation and we encourage our attorneys to participate in pro bono. It’s an important part of the ethos of the firm and the culture of the firm that folks are active in pro bono and also active in their communities.

Sometimes it’s not necessarily considered pro bono work but being on boards and being good corporate citizens is important for us as well. We certainly promote that. That’s part of our evaluation process for our attorneys: what kind of work are you doing in the community?

What kind of work in the pro bono realm have you done recently, and we encourage dialogue about that, and then that also enables us to brainstorm with our attorneys about future opportunities in the community or for pro bono work that they’re individually interested in and just simply setting up connections among attorneys who are interested in similar matters.

For example, I recently had been doing a lot of work down on the Texas border with Mexico representing immigrant women and children who are detained. In our Arizona offices, they are also doing a lot of similar types of work with immigrants. So we’ve been doing a lot of cross-office collaboration on our immigration work. And it’s been really exciting to connect our attorneys to one another but also serve the public interest and do great work on behalf of immigrants.

LAW WEEK: That’s something that’s definitely been a big topic throughout the legal profession, in terms of getting involved. When there is a big topic social issue that comes up, do you typically see that call to action or that response through the firm?

GOODLETTE: I think that’s right. That’s a good way to put it. We hear especially from our younger attorneys, “Hey, I want to do this,” or “I’m interested in this,” and we want to support that and have our first response, hopefully, be, “Yes, and how can we help facilitate that and promote that, and how can we connect you with other attorneys in the firm or elsewhere that can help make that happen?” It’s a matter of having a positive, innovative attitude about that.

Current events just help promote people’s excitement about the work, so it’s always a good opportunity to drum up more interest in pro bono and in public interest work when there’s a hot topic of the day. Certainly, right now, immigration is consistently in the news, and we have a number of people at our rm across various states but also here in the Denver and Colorado Springs offices that are doing different types of work on behalf of immigrants.

LAW WEEK: With that being a cross-office effort, how are your pro bono efforts structured throughout the firm? Are things typically brought up on a local level or an office level?

GOODLETTE: We certainly have our pro bono expectations and policy firmwide, but our offices handle pro bono and participate in pro bono in their communities in different ways.

For example, our Las Vegas office is very involved specifically with the legal aid foundation there, and they do their work specifically through Nevada Legal Services. Whereas here, we do a broader approach, and it’s more individually based as to what our lawyers are specifically interest- ed in and what kind of work our lawyers want to do in the community.