The Legal Profession
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ABA / NLADA 2005 EQUAL JUSTICE CONFERENCE Description: Experienced pro bono providers will discuss the core capacities that every pro bono business provider must have and the benchmarks to developing a successful program with sufficient resources; supportive case management systems; systemic client outreach; pro-active training programs; and effective volunteer recruitment Presenters: Sean Delany, Director Raymond Rull, Staff Attorney Lawyers Alliance for New York CED Project 330 Seventh Ave., 1 gth FL The District of Columbia Bar New York, NY 10001 1250 H St NW Sixth FL 212-219-1800 Washington, DC 20005 2 1 2-94 1 -7458 FAX 202-737-4700 ~ 3 6 9 email@example.com 202-626-347 1 FAX firstname.lastname@example.org Susan Kaplan, Director CED Law Project Angie Zemboy, Director 188 West Randolph St, Suite 21 03 Community Legal Resources Chicago, IL 60601 220 Bagley Ave. Suite 900 3 1 2-939-3638 Detroit, MI 48226 3 1 2-427-6 1 72 FAX 3 1 3-964-4 1 30 email@example.com 3 1 3-964-1 1 92 FAX firstname.lastname@example.org Michael Monahan, Director State Bar of GA Pro Bono Center 104 Marietta St., NW Suite 100 Atlanta, GA 30303 404-527-8762 404-527-871 7 FAX email@example.com TEN PRINCIPLES OF SUCCESS" FOR PRO BONO BUSINESS LAW INTERMEDIARIES: First, every program needs to have a clear focus regarding what it is going to do and how it is going to do it. Second, every program needs a well-thought out plan to guide its work - with goals, timetables and a budget. The plan has to be ambitious but realistic, and it must include a process for periodic evaluation and adjustment. Third, every program has to understand that its core function is to serve as a broker, a matchmaker between client and lawyer, with poor and underprivileged people as the ultimate consumers of their service. Fourth, every program needs full-time professional staff with experience in the types of matters that its clients need. In order to properly screen matters and clients, staff is needed to make judgments about the types of organizations that can use legal services well and to spot legal issues that are not always obvious to the untrained observer. Staff are also important in building institutional relationships with clients, lawyers and funders so that the work is properly directed and sustainable over time. Fifth, every program needs to do a good job of identifying clients and projects that make a difference in the quality of life for people in need. Sixth, every program needs to do a good job of recruiting volunteers to staff pro bono projects. Each lawyer and law firm has different motivations for doing pro bono work. Understanding those motivations and matching lawyers with projects that will serve their interests is important. Seventh, every program needs the ability to track what it is doing, as well as what its clients and volunteers are doing. Without this kind of information, meaningful evaluation is impossible and fundraising is difficult at best. Eighth, every program needs solid leadership. Leaders are the people who make things happen. Good programs normally have strong, thoughtful, proactive leaders; mediocre programs often have passive or disinterested leadership. Leadership may come from the CEO or the board or both. Ninth, every organization needs a solid financial base. Building programs takes time, and if a group does not have a solid base, it will tend to lurch from crisis to crisis rather than building a solid program in a manageable, sustainable manner. Finally, every group needs to be part of something bigger than itself. Groups which operate in isolation find that everything takes longer and is more expensive than groups which work in partnership and collaboration with others. To do this, the leaders of the group must understand that collaboration takes time and resources, and they must be willing to invest in outside relationships that make the group more effective. Fundamental practices for pro bono intermediaries: The following functions are essential to the operation of a successful pro bono business law program: 1. Strategic planning and priority setting . No program canfulfill everyone's demands, nor can it pursue every good idea or meet the needs of every potential client or volunteer. It has to make strategic choices about what it can and cannot do; what it will and won't do. Strategic planning and priority setting allows the intermediary to make those decisions in an informed and rational manner based on local priorities and the resources available to it. A good strategic plan also serves as a common reference point for staff and board and reduces the need for improvisation. 2 . Intake and screening. Proper intake and screening ensures that the project, the client and the lawyer are all well-suited for each other. In gathering information about the client and the help it needs, the intermediary builds a preliminary case file and also collects information that will be useful in producing statistics about the intermediary's overall caseload and the clients it serves. The client's expectations can be assessed to make sure they are realistic and any significant non-legal issues can be spotted. The basic facts of the project are determined so that decisions can be made about the level of legal experience needed and the amount of time the project will need from a volunteer. The parties are identified so that potential conflicts of interest can be cleared at the outset of the work. Finally, the merits of the project in terms of fulfilling the intermediaries priorities can be determined. 3 . Information systems. Internal and external accountability demands that the intermediary track information relating to the organization's caseload, its clients, its volunteers and its institutional relationships. Internal management reports from the system are a valuable tool for ensuring that the program's resources are used effectively. 4 . Client outreach. Intermediaries in the field report that the hardest aspect of their jobs is the ability to locate compelling, high quality projects on an ongoing basis. One reason for this is the low level of awareness about the value of lawyers in the nonprofit sector, and the lack of working relationships between nonprofit groups and in general. Intermediaries can use outreach as a tool to let potential clients know that they exist, which in turn generates new requests for legal assistance. Sometimes, previous clients with new needs will be reminded that the resource is their, and they will come back for additional assistance. In situations where the intermediary has a substantive or geographic emphasis, outreach should be targeted to groups within those areas of emphasis. This will help to make sure that the new business is also the right business from a strategic point of view. 5. Volunteer recruitment. Generating new cases if one does not have the volunteers to handle them is an exercise in futility. So it is important to recruit lawyers with the right set of skills, interests and availability to staff the cases that are coming in. Since the number, type and needs of clients are constantly shifting with circumstances, attorney recruitment has to be an ongoing process. When done well, recruiting ensures not only that the lawyer is the right person to help the nonprofit, but also that the project is one that will engage the lawyer and meet his or her expectations for pro bono work. 6. Volunteer/case support. The best intermediaries treat each client as their own, even though it is everyone's intent that the legal work is to be done by a volunteer lawyer. Once a match is made and the lawyer and client start working together, there are many opportunities to make sure that the experience is good for both client and lawyer. The intermediary who properly supports matches will find that it has a high degree of successful outcomes, a loyal base of volunteers, and a steady stream of clients bringing legal projects of real significance. 7. Program staffing & employment. All of the core functions of pro bono business law intermediaries should be carried out by paid staff. Experience shows that volunteer-run programs operate less smoothly than those run by paid staff because of the difficulty in recruiting people with all the needed skills to work full-time on a volunteer basis. It is also more difficult to sustain relationships over time with volunteer-run programs, since turnover is higher. The staff should have (1) complimentary skills (legal, organizing, speaking, writing, teaching, etc.) (2) an understanding of the overall program plan and (3) devotion to mission. Intermediaries should make sure that the budget reflects expenses needed to allow the staff to learn new skills, become involved in professional activities, and attending meetings where new contacts can be made. Part of the intermediary's ongoing self-evaluation should be devoting to assessing the organization's own capacity and contrasting it with what is needed to carry out its mission. 8. Educational programs. Educational activities such as workshops, manuals, and clinics can serve three important functions. First, they can improve the quality of the legal services available to nonprofits by teaching relevant legal topics to lawyers whose specialties may lie elsewhere. Second, they strengthen nonprofits' understanding of the law, which makes them less apt to make costly mistakes. Third, they present an excellent opportunity for the intermediary to explain what it does and to raise its visibility in the community . 9. Volunteer recognition. Programs in the field report that volunteer recognition provides many benefits. First it strengthens the intermediaryrs relationship with its volunteers. Second, it showcases the work of the organization. Third, it provides concrete examples and 'success stories" that can be used in other communications. Fourth, it provides an opportunity to thank those whose generosity made it all possible. Good volunteer recognition programs should focus on the work of the volunteers and the clients, not on the intermediary itself. The event should be seen as an opportunity to make friends, not raise funds. 10. Fundraising. Virtually every pro bono program in America relies on grants and contributions as a key element of support. Without it, they can't exist. Bringing those dollars into the organization (or more accurately, its bank account) is therefore a mission-critical activity. Fund raising activity can take many forms, and it is important for the organization to choose activities which it is capable of doing well, and which provide the best balance between costs and benefits. Fund raising activities should be carefully planned, and should be directed by a qualified professional, typically not a lawyer. The old adage that it takes money to make money holds true here; adequate resources must be devoted to fundraising if the organization wants to achieve its goals. 11. Financial management. Managers of intermediaries report that, in practice, financial management plays a key role in their ability to carry out their missions. Many important decisions, like hiring or firing staff; expanding or reducing program initiatives, and how to make the organization stable over time depend on assessing the financial strength of the organization. Donors and government authorities want to see financial reports which have been scrutinized and approved by the board of directors. Cash flow projections that extend months or years into the future allow an organization to anticipate financial trouble and avoid it. But none of these things can be done without proper financial management. Practitioners in the field report that the most important elements of financial management are (1) good internal systems; (2) qualified people to run them; (3) the outside supervision of an experienced accountant; and (4) careful review by the board. A good budgeting process which is tied in to the organization's internal reporting is also an invaluable tool. 12 . Monitoring customer satisfaction . Pro bono intermediaries have struggled for many years trying to measure impact – the holy grail of the nonprofit sector. Many programs can provide statistics on the number of cases, or hours of service donated, or the number of dollars worth of legal services provides per dollar spent. But these statistics leave us somewhat unsatisfied. Measures of customer satisfaction are one good way to fill this gap. First, they use client’s and volunteer’s definitions of success, not that of the intermediary. Second, they point out places where the organization needs to devote resources, or places where the organization is overspending. Third, they help an intermediary understand whether adjustments to its strategic plan are achieving their purposes. 13. Governance. Defining the organization's mission, assessing its capacity to carry it out, allocating resources and monitoring performance of the operating plan are all functions of governance. So are making sure that the organization's resources are well-managed and that all legal and ethical requirements are met. Governance involves the integration of internal operations, oversight by the board of directors, and independent review by donors, and government regulators, and when done properly it is the result of a team effort. Each member of the team has to take his or her role seriously, and there must be some system for determining whether proper governance is being exercised. If it is not, the organization's leaders must not be passive but must create a consensus for change.