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Attention: RFP FOR PRO BONO SERVICE BY SMALL LAW FIRM. Honestly, do you think a large firm would respond?

by Carolyn Elefant on February 24, 2007 · 4 comments

in Biglaw Practice and Issues, Pro Bono

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Imagine that your law firm issues the following Request for Proposals:

Busy solo practitioner seeking large firm to partner on pro bono matters for small, walk in clients with no funds to retain an attorney at full rates.  Firm must turn these clients down in the absence of pro bono support.  Matters include messy family law and custody battles, eviction proceedings, Fair Debt Collection Act matters, bankruptcy and lawsuits against small business without insurance coverage.  Benefits include court time before sometimes unqualified, nasty judges, (as opposed to civilized federal practice) and learning to prioritize issues, cut corners due to cost constraints and practice law at less than your full ability due to lack of resources.   

Now honestly, do you think you’d receive even a single response?  Yet when large corporation Intel posted an RFP for lawyers to partner on pro bono firms, biglaw came running, according to this article, Intel Recruits Firms for Pro Bono Partnering.  But don’t think for even a second that the firms had thoughts of winning a plum client through working side by side with Intel lawyers on pro bono matters:

Similarly,
Nixon Peabody pro bono partner Stacey Slater said her firm was
motivated by the opportunity to do a good deed, not the chance of
winning a new client. "That’s not at all why we’re doing this," she
said. "This partnership will help increase pro bono on both ends."

Do these people even believe what they are saying?

  • http://www.donnerlawfirm.com Jeff Donner

    Great post, Carolyn.
    Couldn’t agree more, especially the part about [very] messy divorce/custody cases and less-than-well-qualified state court judges in those divorce cases–and working at less than one’s potential due to the clients’ limited ability to pay.

  • http://www.donnerlawfirm.com Jeff Donner

    Great post, Carolyn.
    Couldn’t agree more, especially the part about [very] messy divorce/custody cases and less-than-well-qualified state court judges in those divorce cases–and working at less than one’s potential due to the clients’ limited ability to pay.

  • http://www.hancock.net/~lennyesq/ Leonard E. Sienko, Jr.

    I would like to speak in favor of Nixon Peabody. I represent a small town in upstate New York, which was devastated by flooding in June, 2006. Our Town Hall was flooded, our records destroyed. Our trucks and equipment were also destroyed in what was termed a “500-year flood”.
    We borrowed a total of 8 million dollars to make certain the repair work could be completed. Much of our infrastructure was completely gone. Flash flooding wiped out our roads, bridges, homes.
    Despite more than 11 million dollars in approved work orders, we still have received less than $100,000 reimbursement from FEMA.
    In the midst of all this chaos, a self-appointed group of fly fishers decided to threaten the Town with a 60-day notice of action for alleged violation of the CWA for the way our contractors repaired the streams. Many of the streams had to be put back in their beds with heavy equipment.
    I am only a part-time Town Attorney. Our insurance carrier disclaimed coverage and refused defense. I contacted Nixon Peabody about representing the town. After explaining our dire straights, the Nixon Peabody partner I spoke to suggested that she would present our case to her pro bono committee. I was ecstatic to hear that Nixon Peabody would represent us pro bono.
    I never raised the issue. The firm suggested the pro bono representation. There is no possible financial benefit to Nixon Peabody from representing a flood-ravaged small town in rural, upstate New York–none whatsoever. They have treated us very well and have been responsive to our needs as a client.
    Nixon Peabody is doing a “good deed” for my town and its residents. I believe every word they’re saying about their pro bono work.

  • http://www.hancock.net/~lennyesq/ Leonard E. Sienko, Jr.

    I would like to speak in favor of Nixon Peabody. I represent a small town in upstate New York, which was devastated by flooding in June, 2006. Our Town Hall was flooded, our records destroyed. Our trucks and equipment were also destroyed in what was termed a “500-year flood”.
    We borrowed a total of 8 million dollars to make certain the repair work could be completed. Much of our infrastructure was completely gone. Flash flooding wiped out our roads, bridges, homes.
    Despite more than 11 million dollars in approved work orders, we still have received less than $100,000 reimbursement from FEMA.
    In the midst of all this chaos, a self-appointed group of fly fishers decided to threaten the Town with a 60-day notice of action for alleged violation of the CWA for the way our contractors repaired the streams. Many of the streams had to be put back in their beds with heavy equipment.
    I am only a part-time Town Attorney. Our insurance carrier disclaimed coverage and refused defense. I contacted Nixon Peabody about representing the town. After explaining our dire straights, the Nixon Peabody partner I spoke to suggested that she would present our case to her pro bono committee. I was ecstatic to hear that Nixon Peabody would represent us pro bono.
    I never raised the issue. The firm suggested the pro bono representation. There is no possible financial benefit to Nixon Peabody from representing a flood-ravaged small town in rural, upstate New York–none whatsoever. They have treated us very well and have been responsive to our needs as a client.
    Nixon Peabody is doing a “good deed” for my town and its residents. I believe every word they’re saying about their pro bono work.

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