Law firms and legal departments are made up of a lot of people – many of whom may not be lawyers. Involving paralegals; librarians; compliance specialists; marketing staff; policy, science, human resources, and information technology experts; and other non-lawyer staff in your pro bono efforts is one way to effectively increase your pro bono practice and serve more clients. In order for non-lawyers to successfully contribute to your pro bono efforts: (1) the culture of your firm or organization must support non-lawyer participation; (2) non-lawyers must be informed and made aware of relevant pro bono opportunities; (3) you should cater to non-lawyer abilities and interests; and (4) non-lawyers must be adequately trained and supervised, so that they can have a meaningful experience.
Last year, at our Annual Conference, our friend Cheryl Naja, pro bono-community service manager at Alston & Bird LLP*†, inspired attendees with one visionary and creative way that the firm has been able to involve non-lawyers. Naja saw a unique opportunity to assist the Georgia Senior Legal Hotline, which had to cut staff following budget cuts in 2009. Faced with splitting the hotline’s staff attorney time between representing clients and monitoring hotline calls, Alston & Bird put its receptionists to work doing intake for the hotline. The program allows the firm’s non-lawyer staff to make a meaningful contribution while giving legal services attorneys more time to help their clients. Naja explains the program in more detail in the video below.
We are delighted to report that last month, Alston & Bird was honored with a Corporate Volunteer Council of Atlanta 2011 IMPACT Award in recognition of this program and the contributions it makes to the Atlanta Legal Aid Society and the Georgia Legal Services Program. This innovative model could – and should – be replicated by firms around the country.
How are you engaging your non-lawyer staff and leveraging their skills in support of pro bono projects? Leave a comment and share your creative ideas. To learn more about involving non-lawyers in pro bono, email Law Firm Pro Bono Project Assistant Mary Baroch to request a copy of the Project’s publication “Broadening the Bench: Involving Non-Lawyer Staff in Law Firm Pro Bono.”
*denotes a Signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®
†denotes a Member of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project