Posted on: March 4, 2016
Seyfarth attorneys focus on doing the most good through their work, having identified compassion, action and impact as the guiding principles of their program. Using these principles, they have created some impressively innovative pro bono projects that really make a difference for the communities they serve.
“Overall, the hallmark of our pro bono program is innovation,” explains Allegra Nethery, the Pro Bono Partner at Seyfarth Shaw. “We really try to think creatively about ways to remove barriers to access to justice.”
Creativity led Seyfarth to some successful, if unconventional, projects. One was to use the business process improvement methodology that had been developed through the firm’s consulting arm, SeyfarthLean Consulting, to increase capacity and improve efficiency at legal aid organizations.
One such organization the firm worked with was Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation, the primary legal aid organization in southern and central Illinois. After a 2011 legal needs study, Land of Lincoln identified several housing and consumer issues that were high priorities for its client population and could benefit from extended representation. Seyfarth’s collaboration helped Land of Lincoln assess clients and assign staff attorneys more efficiently and consistently, while enabling staff attorneys to begin examining their own litigation processes, learning from one another in ways they had not considered in the past.
“We are trying to improve the system,” said Allegra. “We want to do what we can to increase the capacity of organizations to serve more people in need.”
Addressing Unmet Legal Needs
Seyfarth has also worked in collaboration with The Law Project (TLP), an organization that provides free legal assistance to support community development efforts led by entrepreneurs and nonprofit organizations. TLP was struggling to help clients with employment law questions, since it did not have an employment attorney on staff.
“TLP asked Seyfarth to help, and they enthusiastically stepped up to the plate and the Employer Hotline was created,” explained Jody Adler, The Law Project Director. “Now, when a client asks TLP an employment question, we access Seyfarth’s intranet and schedule the client for a 30 minute phone consultation with a Seyfarth employment attorney.”
Seyfarth created the Hotline to address an unmet need in the community. Allegra said they are trying to work out a model that can be set up in other Seyfarth Shaw offices around the country where similar unmet needs may exist.
An Individual and Systemic Approach
In addition to these big picture projects, Seyfarth lawyers in Chicago also volunteer at clinics with Cabrini Green Legal Aid, the National Immigrant Justice Center, the Domestic Violence Legal Clinic and the Center for Disability and Elder Law, among others. Additionally, many Seyfarth attorneys lend their time and experience to legal aid organizations and other nonprofits and community groups through board service. One such person is Kyle Petersen, a Seyfarth partner and former PILI Fellow, who serves on PILI’s Board of Directors.
“We are looking at access to justice on an individual and systemic level,” said Allegra. “You have to do both to make progress, and that’s what we try to do with our program.”
Through innovative pro bono programming and traditional pro bono volunteerism, Seyfarth Shaw is able to make a strong impact. The firm is improving how organizations operate, while also assisting individual clients in need. All the while, the volunteer attorneys are following their guiding principles of compassion, action and impact to make the most difference in the lives of the clients they serve.