The oft-repeated phrase “Robinson+Cole is a community-minded law firm” holds true thanks to the dedication of our attorneys and staff who volunteer their time to support and enhance the communities in which we live and work. Those efforts come in the form of both pro bono work and community service. While both forms of volunteerism are invaluable in helping to build and support communities, it’s important that we distinguish between the two. In a nutshell, pro bono work is simply legal services provided to qualifying organizations and individuals on a no-pay basis. Community service is the time that we spend supporting not-for-profit organizations, typically by serving on a board of directors, where our legal skills are incidental to our role as a volunteer. When we take on a pro bono matter, we follow our standard intake process and that matter becomes the responsibility of the firm, which implicates our conflicts procedures and malpractice standards. That is generally not so for our community service efforts.
While it’s important from a loss prevention perspective to recognize these differences, there is an undeniable overlap between the two. As those of us who serve on the boards of non-profits know, the legal profession is usually well represented, and for good reason! Our skill sets as attorneys can add real value to the governance and operation of these corporations and associations. As a result, we are often reminded to keep an eye out for the line between routine board service and actual rendering of legal services to the organization.
That is not to say that we must sit mum while our non-profits wrestle with legal issues. Quite the contrary! These organizations, that typically provide invaluable resources to underserved populations and that our attorney volunteers feel passionate about, are terrific sources of pro bono referrals. As legal issues arise, as they invariably do, consider whether it’s a matter that Robinson+Cole would take in on a pro bono basis. Provided the organization meets our pro bono criteria, as many do, the Pro Bono Committee would be happy to consider whether to take on a given matter. Subject to clearing conflicts and identifying a pro bono volunteer, this is another way in which Robinson+Cole can support our community service volunteers.
When considering where to look for a pro bono referral that lines up with your interests, this often is a great place to start!
Peter R. Knight
Partner, Chair Pro Bono Committee