Karen Grisez of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson*† is our guest this week on the Law Firm Pro Bono Project’s podcast, the Pro Bono Happy Hour. Karen, a pro bono legend, shares her career journey from legal secretary to paralegal to lawyer. She joined Fried Frank because of its staff diversity and support for pro bono matters. The firm has long been invested in making pro bono part of the firm culture – it was the third firm in Washington, DC to create a full-time Public Service Counsel position. Karen accepted that role in 1996, and still holds it today. Her advancement at the firm grew out of her willingness to do as much pro bono work as she could.
One of her most meaningful pro bono cases was one she handled as a first-year associate at the start of her career. She helped restore monthly benefits for a WWII veteran just weeks before his and his wife’s 50th wedding anniversary. The couple were so appreciative, they bought her a ticket to attend their anniversary party because without her support, there would have been no party. For many years, Karen kept in touch with the couple, saying: “some cases transcend the attorney/client relationship and lead to true, long lasting friendships.” Pro bono can be just as rewarding for legal professionals as it is for clients. Karen wrote about her emotional experience in a moving article, Pro Bono From the Heart. Give it a read and keep the Kleenex nearby.
Karen also discusses her strategies for inspiring legal professionals at the firm to do pro bono. They don’t take a “one size fits all approach.” Instead, she and her team get to know the person, what skills they would like to learn, what issues matter most to them, and what obstacles might stand in their way of doing pro bono. Take 35 minutes to listen to our wide-ranging and inspiring conversation with Karen.
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* denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® signatory
† denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Project® member