Legal Work Donated for the Public Good

Legal Work Donated for the Public Good

 
Legall services provided pro bono allow nonprofits to focus recsources on their missions.

When Schooner, Inc. ran into financial troubles a few years ago, the summer camp that had introduced thousands of New Haven-area young people to sailing and coastal exploration was at risk of closing down. To keep the camp afloat, Schooner’s board reached out to the Pro Bono Partnership for help restructuring the organization. 

Schooner was matched with the global corporate firm of Morgan Lewis, whose lawyers shepherded a merger with New Haven Land Trust. The legal work went well beyond what the two nonprofits could ordinarily afford. But because the legal services were donated, the merger was completed and the Schooner programs were saved. 

“The team at Morgan Lewis was incredibly responsive,” says Kyle Pedersen, the New Haven Land Trust treasurer and former board chairman of Schooner Inc. “They were always there on the phone when we had a question and sent us documents and responses by email so we could take the time that we needed as a board to make very serious decisions for us.”

The Pro Bono Partnership provides free, direct legal services to Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey nonprofits that serve the disadvantaged. In 2016, the partnership worked for 34 nonprofits in Greater New Haven, donating more than 1,000 hours of legal services valued at more than $400,000. Annually, it works with about 700 nonprofit clients in the three states.

“Smaller institutions often do not have a budget for legal fees without impacting their services,” says Pro Bono Partnership Director of Marketing Mindi Lund. “The Pro Bono Partnership has about 1300 volunteers in the tri-state area. These are attorneys that bill at hundreds of dollars per hour. The nonprofits get that for free.”

Nonprofits seeking pro bono legal services are first screened by the Partnership before being matched with an attorney. Legal matters range from review of bylaws and core policies to employment and real estate issues and protection of intellectual property. 

In addition to providing direct legal counsel, the partnership also offers workshops and general advice to nonprofits. 

The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven is supporting the Pro Bono Partnership with a $15,000 grant to support Greater New Haven nonprofits. 

“Every nonprofit benefits from expert legal advice, and with the financial backing of partners like The Community Foundation, we can continue to provide that service free of charge to local nonprofits so they can focus precious resources on serving their constituents in the Greater New Haven area,” says Pro Bono Partnership program director, Priya Morganstern. 

For more information about the Pro Bono Partnership, visit its profile on givegreater.org.

Did you know?

Pro bono is the shortened version of the Latin phrase pro bono publico, which means, “for the public good.”

This story is part of the Inspiration Monday story series produced by The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven.

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