Serving the communities in which we operate has always been one of our core values. Our robust and eclectic pro bono program enables each of our lawyers to find their individual pro bono passion and use it to help disadvantaged individuals in their community. We have ongoing pro bono projects covering a large array of issues, and we are continually starting new projects to match the interests of our lawyers with the needs of our community members. Pro bono work provides meaningful experience for our lawyers and builds goodwill and satisfaction in the communities we serve.
We are a proud charter signatory of the American Bar Association's Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge, pursuant to which firms pledge to provide pro bono legal assistance equal to at least three percent of their billable hours. We have proudly exceeded the 3% Challenge every year since we signed the charter in 1993 and, since 2007, we have annually exceeded at least four percent, with some years even reaching five percent.
Our commitment to provide quality legal services to those most in need and to the organizations that serve those individuals continues to grow. We are constantly adding new pro bono projects and seeking opportunities to help more people and carry out work that is important to our lawyers. In 2017 we provided over 31,765 hours of pro bono legal services to low income individuals and nonprofit organizations.
One of the ways we provide legal services directly to those in need is through community legal clinics that bring our attorneys into the areas where our pro bono clients live and feel comfortable. Across our offices we staff multiple clinics, including:
- Legal Access Point. Attorneys from our Minneapolis office help staff the Legal Access Point Clinic located at the Self Help Center of the local county courthouse, providing legal advice and referral services to low income people who are pro se litigants.
- Lawyer for a Day. Our Anchorage office partners with the Alaska Legal Services Corporation's Volunteer Attorney Support Program. Our lawyers meet with potential ALSC clients and deliver brief client services.
- Youth Clinics. We founded and staff the Eastwood Legal Clinic for Teen Parents and provide a regular legal clinic at a Minneapolis high school for teen parents, as well as an annual holiday party and a scholarship program.
- Small Business Clinics. Our Denver attorneys help staff the Mi Casa Small Business Clinic, which provides advice to microenterprises, other small businesses and nonprofits. These organizations need a wide range of business transactional legal services and our Denver partners, associates and patent agents are all on hand to help.
- Client Partnerships. We partner with clients, including UnitedHealth Group, to staff nonprofit and small business law clinics in Southern California and Minneapolis. We also partner with UnitedHealth Group to provide wills clinics for low-income seniors. One of our longest running client partnerships is with U.S. Bank at the Brian Coyle Clinic in Minneapolis, where we have been providing legal services to a primarily Somalian population for over two decades. We also partner with U.S. Bank to staff a housing clinic. We partner with Xcel Energy to provide a clinic to assist clients with preparing pro se petitions to utilize laws that allow for the expungement of records, which substantially increases a person’s chances for securing employment and housing and helps to avoid a cycle of recidivism.
Reaching Communities through Non-Profits. We recognize that nonprofit organizations are often in the best position to interact directly with individuals in our communities and we have a long history of leveraging the good we can do by working directly with non-profit organizations.
We annually advise hundreds of non-profits and we assist with their entire life cycle, including formation, dissolution and everything in between. We provide organizations with comprehensive internal check-ups and help to review their governing documents, policies, contracts and other transactional documents so as to ensure that they continue to survive, thrive and provide needed services to our communities. We respond to requests to assist with catastrophic events, such as large lease disputes, IRS appeals and employment matters, that can threaten a non-profit’s ability to remain in existence. We also assist non-profits with regulatory compliance matters, real estate transactions, trademark issues and employment policies.
In addition, we frequently work with non-profit organizations to assist with white papers and other types of research projects, often with the goal of initiating and supporting positive systemic change. We also have relationships with numerous nonprofit assistance and micro minority-owned business support organizations.
Board Service and Direct Representation. Over 100 of our attorneys serve as board members on a broad range of local legal service and other non-profit organizations. These board seats allow our attorneys to be active in our communities and put them in a position to identify non-profit organizations that could benefit from pro bono legal services. Our lawyers who serve on non-profit boards often help connect us with opportunities to provide meaningful pro bono work to those most in need.
Litigation. We are continuously involved in pro bono litigation matters that help disadvantaged persons and communities. The scope of our work is broad and varies from small to very large matters. Some of our larger recent projects include:
- Working with the American Civil Liberties Union to obtain a decision from the Federal Second Circuit Court of Appeals overturning a lower court’s decision and ordering the federal government to disclose the rationale underlying its conclusion that the U.S. government can kill U.S. citizens with drones without a trial in some circumstances;
- Working with the Minnesota Innocence Project to investigate and move for a new trial based on new DNA testing in the high-profile murders of three Native American women in the 1980s;
- Obtaining a Privy Council ruling for a new trial for a Jamaican prisoner sentenced to life imprisonment; and
- Assisting defendants facing the death penalty.
In addition to large litigation matters, we assist with smaller disputes affecting individuals and nonprofits that are referred to us from clinics and other organizations, including orders for protection, child support issues, wrongful evictions, housing habitability concerns, employment issues, immigration matters and political asylum claims.
Lobbying for Change. Advocacy occurs not only in the courts, but also in legislative bodies. In particular, we often provide assistance for advocacy work that addresses human rights issues. For example, one of our attorneys testified on behalf of an imprisoned Bahraini human rights activist before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. Another attorney drafted an amendment to a state statute that has increased the availability of expungement for wrongful eviction cases. We regularly provide research for white papers that are used to advocate for changes for laws across the world that affect the treatment of minorities in other countries, including issues related to gender and sexual preference.