A Unique Commitment
The commitment to pro bono work at Goulston & Storrs is truly unique, and the lawyers who come here from other firms recognize it. In the words of one of our New York directors, “There is a hands-down real difference in our approach to pro bono. When I came here, it was the first place I had ever seen with a real expectation of serving the public as part of our ethics. Pro bono opportunities get circulated around the office and people dive all over them. It is not just tolerated here – it something we are passionate about doing.”
The firm strongly encourages every lawyer to do pro bono work that fits their expertise, and we encourage attorneys to get the necessary training to do complementary work in areas outside of their expertise.
We also support every lawyer’s efforts to recruit and develop new pro bono clients, and we brainstorm regularly on how to better serve the communities in which we work and live. The firm actively looks for opportunities to assist organizations with missions involving social justice, environmental protection, defense of civil liberties, affordable housing, community development, disaster relief, assisting the elderly and disabled, juvenile justice, and other worthy causes, particularly focused on serving those in greatest need. But our pro bono clients do not include suburban neighborhood groups or well-endowed private schools affiliated with our directors because we want to focus on those in greatest need.
We also undertake this work with the same level of commitment that we make to all our clients because pro bono work is not just something “extra” that we do. We maintained and even expanded our pro bono commitments during the 2008-09 economic downturn, and we never cut back on our time when business picked up again.
The commitment is real and associates understand the importance of pro bono work here, as evidenced by their comments:
- “As a third-year associate, I went to the pro bono committee to seek support for securing special services for a low-functioning autistic child in western Massachusetts, and they fully supported me. There are no pre-set rules here – we don’t just do the PR stuff – we do whatever benefits the community and whatever fits your passion.”
- “Goulston & Storrs gives billable hour credit for pro bono work and the time is taken just as seriously as other billable time, so it does not come at a cost to my time with family. I spent more than 10 percent of my time on pro bono matters one year, working mostly on a huge international governance restructuring project for Oxfam, sitting in on their board meetings and getting integrated with their organization. I learned a lot.”
- “There is no cap on pro bono work here, and there are no mixed messages. The big message is not to treat any client differently. We have to give first-class service to every client.”
Directors who are partners in the firm likewise point to other indicia of our unique commitment to pro bono service, including the following facts:
- We are enthusiastic about pro bono outreach, and we enlist our non pro-bono clients in the effort to identify worthy causes for our services
- More than 70 percent of our lawyers are doing substantial pro bono work, averaging more than 70 hours a year firm-wide, and that does not include uncounted time doing non-legal volunteer or non-profit board work
- Our total commitment of legal time and resources in support of pro bono organizations is consistently in the millions of dollars per year and we always look to do more
- We support global pro bono efforts by our lawyers, including overseas travel related to disaster relief, refugee assistance and the fight against poverty
- We give lawyers credit for pro bono hours worked, and the level of service to our pro bono clients is indistinguishable from our work for full-paying clients. We want every client to get superior professional service
- Many of our pro bono clients entrust us to act as their outside general counsel and strategic advisors to their organizations
- We have decades-long relationships with many pro bono clients, and we are always growing our pro bono client base
- We regularly invite one pro bono clients into our firm to share their unique experiences and spread the word about their mission, growing the bonds with our lawyers and our networks.
- We value pro bono clients and the work they bring to us because they teach us so much, including how to do more with less for organizations that have very stretched resources
In many cases, our pro bono clients have become so much a part of us that our attorneys have taken on roles within their organizations as directors and have even become full-time executives. For example, our alumni currently include management-level executives for a community development corporation, the League of Women Voters, and a nonprofit that engages young men and women in rebuilding projects in their communities. We also donate non-legal time as volunteers, strategists, and social promoters.
In short, we believe that our pro bono commitment is a big part of what defines us, differentiates us, and binds us together as a team of legal professionals dedicated to doing that which our profession calls us to do.