Loaned Lawyers: A Win-Win-Win

Want to make a meaningful difference and improve access to justice? Looking for new ideas for professional development? Are you interested in new pro bono opportunities? A rotation or externship program may be the solution.

Also known as secondments, an externship or rotation is when a law firm “loans” a lawyer to an outside organization. The attorney will typically work in a legal services, public interest, government, or other host organization full-time while still employed at their law firm. On the Pro Bono Happy Hour, we spoke with Amy Barasch, Susie Hoffman, and Becca Naylor about how loaned lawyer programs are a win-win-win for lawyers, law firms, host organizations, and clients.

TRIVIA QUESTION: What pro bono leader participated in such a program as a law firm associate? Keep reading to find out!

A significant upside of loaned lawyer programs is the support that they give to host organizations. One such organization is Her Justice, a nonprofit that provides legal services to women living in poverty in New York City. Her Justice has benefitted from externship programs and works with four law firms that loan associates to them. Executive Director Amy Barasch, spoke to us about working at the organization and how the extra help provided by externships is “terrific for us [Her Justice] to expand our capacity” and  the lawyers get a chance to develop “skills that any lawyer needs to have.”

For example, Amy shared the story of Alice M., who came to Her Justice for assistance with a divorce from her abusive husband.  She was represented by a staff attorney and an extern from Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson*+, who obtained a significant, precedent-setting victory.  New York State Supreme Court Justice Jeffrey Sunshine ruled that a man serving 40 years in state prison for raping Alice was not entitled to share her pension or any other marital asset in their divorce.

From the firm’s perspective, these programs are uniquely beneficial as skills training and professional development vehicles for young attorneys. Susie Hoffman of Crowell & Moring* noted that externships were an opportunity for investment in professional development. Her firm utilizes its loaned lawyer program to “help legal aid extend their resources” and to give “our attorneys great training, on your feet experience, and case management.”

London based Becca Naylor of Reed Smith*† spoke about how secondments, such as the one she participated in at Liberty, are a great tool for recruitment:

It shows how seriously the firm takes the pro bono commitment. That we not only do pro bono work for [the organization’s] clients. That we’re willing to lend them one of our lawyers for a period of time in order to further help and develop the work that they are doing.

These programs have the potential to provide numerous additional benefits, including developing and strengthening relationships between law firms and host organizations, expanded new pro bono opportunities and expertise when the lawyer returns to the firm, while increasing dramatically the firm’s overall pro bono hours.

Want to hear more about real life experiences working with these programs? Check out our podcast, the Pro Bono Happy Hour, to hear firsthand accounts from Amy, Becca, and Susie as they discuss their experiences with externship programs and more.

TRIVIA ANSWER: PBI’s President and CEO, Eve Runyon participated in a seven-month externship program with the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia during her time at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom*†.

* denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® signatory

† denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Project® member