Why We Do It
Our firm does pro bono work, first and foremost, because it is the right thing to do. Lawyers are the vanguard of our civil rights and liberties. It is up to our profession, more than any other, to stand up for our democracy and the constitutional rights of the powerless, the disenfranchised and the vulnerable, particularly when and where those rights are endangered.
We also feel professionally obligated to provide services that enhance the communities in which we work and live, using our considerable legal expertise to help them build, refurbish and environmentally recondition affordable housing, schools, commercial centers, and other projects.
Because we view public service as a calling, there is nothing more professionally satisfying than the expressions of gratitude we receive from pro bono clients who do such important and often unnoticed work. These generous expressions reinvigorate our efforts and help us understand the nature of our professional impact. A couple of examples will illustrate the point:
- “I am writing to thank you for your many kindnesses and support… I have had the privilege of working with many of you as I founded ‘Strategies for Children’ and the ‘Early Education for All Campaign,’ working to ensure that every child and family in Massachusetts has access to high-quality early education and care… [and now] with your support, Mil Milagros, Inc. (a “Thousand Miracles”) has helped 5,100 indigenous Maya children… supporting 1,500 mothers and 170 teachers in some of the most neglected communities on the planet.” - Margaret Blood, founder and senior advisor to Mil Milagros, Inc.
- “We have grown six times in work volume and 10 times in staff size since Goulston & Storrs got involved with us… The firm-wide pro bono support we get is incredible. It means more resources for more good works, and it has been critical in helping us achieve a four-star charity rating four years in a row, insuring that 96 cents of every dollar we get goes directly to field support for disaster relief.” - David Campbell, co-founder and chairman of All Hands and Hearts – Smart Response
Our pro bono work on transformative missions does more than awe and humble us. It also engages and develops our strategic business skills, and it teaches us new ways to collaborate and do more with less for organizations whose resources are stretched. This is not the primary reason for our public service work, but it has undeniable benefits to our firm, our lawyers and even our non pro bono clients.
The words of our lawyers probably best express how pro bono work energizes us while sharpening both our legal and non-legal skills, enhancing our reputation to the benefit of our firm and even our commercial clients.
- “Pro bono work trains us to be collaborative, service-minded and humble. Often, it requires us to put on both business and legal hats as full-service counselors, and it sharpens our skills. It is an avenue for professional growth that benefits us and all our clients.” - New York Director
- “We work with Roca, Inc., an organization that provides services that nobody else does, working with young men who are at the greatest risk of incarceration , getting them into proven programs for real behavioral change. Thanks to Roca’s partnership with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and private funders, Roca has been able to expand its services with private loans and funding based on achievable and measurable results. More young men have been able to get life skills, counseling and job training, thanks to the largest social innovation financing project in the nation and on the second of its kind. Working on something like this requires real creativity and the application of practical problem-solving skills to a very complicated and cutting-edge deal.” - Boston Director
- “Pro bono work is particularly great for junior associates. They often get to act as the first chair or take the lead in a deal - with partner supervision - and the client relies on them to be proactive, efficient and focused. Associates learn a lot about client management and recruiting colleagues to provide full service.” - Washington, D.C. Director
- “The trial work I did pro bono helped me learn how to react on my feet. You can’t learn that skill without doing it, and I was able to obtain a rarely issued permanent restraining order, after three tries, for a woman who was threatened by her ex. This was a ‘life or death’ matter, and when we won, were hugging and weeping.” - Boston Associate
- “Pro bono work for community development corporations helps us stay in tune with the local community and enhances our sensitivity to neighborhood concerns, which is critically important to any kind of development project. It also helps us become even more familiar with local regulators who value the work of a community project.” – Boston Director
- “We do lots of work for low-income affordable housing programs. They face plenty of objections despite their critically important mission. The opposition teaches you not to take it personally when you feel your client is picked on. You just have to get people comfortable with change.” - Washington, D.C. Director
- “I have never forgotten a project I worked on about 20 years ago for the ACLU. We were monitoring youth incarceration conditions as part of a consent decree, and I saw a different world – one with children sleeping on cots in a crowded gym. Our work to improve those conditions mattered.” - Boston Director
- “In working with landlords and creditors for low-income tenants and debtors, you can learn a lot about bringing down people’s temperatures, getting them to focus on end results and facilitating communication. More than 80 percent of these cases can be resolved with good legal work. I will always remember helping one woman in Hyde Park who was confused by her rent amount and other obligations. We resolved a controversy for her that was months in the making and her alternative was being homeless or going somewhere uncertain and scary.” - Boston Director
- “We handled an international refugee case for IRAP for an Iraqi man who had helped U.S. troops, putting his life in danger. He had to seek temporary asylum in India before he could come here, and it was a labyrinthine process to secure his admission. I remember midnight calls, going to Dulles airport to meet him, and seeing all his army buddies who came to greet him. The process of just getting through the airport took hours. It gave me an extraordinary sense of client responsibility and empathy, and I learned a lot about immigration.” - Boston Associate
Our pro bono clients present us with some of the most complex, challenging problems we handle. Organizational clients often have tangled public-private structural components, stretched resources, missions that take them to risky places, and completely unique complications and obstacles. Those are the very challenges we choose to embrace, and they make us better lawyers who are better able to serve all our clients. These challenges also unite us, binding us together as true partners in a socially-conscious firm.