The Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta Provides Pro Bono Representation to Nonprofit Organizations Serving Low-Income and Disadvantaged Individuals
There is an impressive and growing array of pro bono work opportunities available to today's bar. For example, many attorneys prefer counseling and transactional work to litigation. At the Pro Bono Luncheon at the Section's Atlanta conference in November, Rachel Spears, Executive Director of The Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta described how her organization helps these attorneys find pro bono work that is similar to what they do every day. The Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta represents nonprofit organizations exclusively. "Like any employer," explains Spears, "nonprofits regularly have employment-related legal issues; and when they do, they often come to us for legal counsel."
"Our volunteer attorneys assist nonprofits by, for example, drafting employee handbooks, advising on employment decisions, responding to EEOC notices and Georgia Department of Labor inquiries, classifying workers as contractors or employees and counseling on overtime policies. About 20% of our work is employment-related; but we also assist nonprofits with contracts, corporate governance, intellectual property, real estate, tax, technology and other legal issues."
In order to be eligible for Pro Bono Partnership services, nonprofits must have 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status and serve low-income or disadvantaged individuals in the greater Atlanta area. Typical clients include afterschool programs for at-risk youth, transitional housing providers, health clinics for the uninsured and advocacy organizations for the disabled. If the Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta did not exist, most of these organizations would have to navigate their legal issues without assistance from an attorney.
In addition to providing direct legal advice to clients when a legal issue arises, the Pro Bono Partnership strives to be proactive by educating all nonprofits about potential legal pitfalls before they happen. They provide information on topics such as the proper use of independent contractors, the Fair Labor Standards Act, social media policies and best practices in hiring and firing through newsletter articles, monthly webcasts and free in-person workshops. Many of these resources are available on their Website.
Spears explained that the Pro Bono Partnership has made a difference. "Since we opened in 2005, we have advised about 550 nonprofit clients on over 3000 legal matters with assistance from over 1500 attorney volunteers. Many of our volunteer attorneys are in-house at Atlanta-area corporations. In 2011 alone, we provided about $2.3 million worth of free legal services to nonprofits."
Because employment issues are so common among Pro Bono Partnership clients, they are always looking for employment attorneys to volunteer. If you are interested in volunteering with Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. There are programs similar to the Pro Bono Partnership in most major cities around the country, including New York City, Chicago and San Francisco. For a list of such programs, go to their Helpful Links page. If there is no such program in your area, you can contact a nonprofit directly and ask if they can use pro bono assistance. There is a good chance they will say yes.
This article was prepared on behalf of the Section's Pro Bono Work Committee by William Bush, who represents employees at the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee office in Cookeville, Tennessee.
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