As you take time to reflect on 2015 and prepare for 2016 this week, what are some key areas of your small law firm you want to strengthen next year? If you don’t already have a strategy for giving back to your community, we think you should make creating one a new year’s resolution for 2016.
Here are some ways your small law firm can do good and give back in 2016:
Pro Bono Work
According to a study by the Connecticut Law Review, over 60 percent of critical cases go to court with at least one party unable to afford a lawyer. Other studies estimate that 80 percent of the legal needs of low-income individuals go unmet, and that funding for legal aid to serve these groups has dropped 60 percent in the last decade. However, turning to state-appointed representation is not the only option for individuals who cannot afford legal services. For them, legal clinics and pro bono attorney arrangements can be a worthwhile alternative, and your firm can be part of the solution.
The American Bar association recommends all US lawyers donate at least 50 hours of pro bono service each year, so if your firm isn’t already doing pro bono work, make 50 hours your first target. With smart time management and prioritization, you may be able to offer much more time. If your firm qualifies for Smokeball’s Legal Clinics & Pro Bono Attorneys Program, you can even get free Smokeball software licenses and specialized training for up to ten staff that will help you do your pro bono work more efficiently and effectively.
For some small law firms with busy schedules and limited staff resources, regular pro bono work may not be the right fit. Volunteering outside of work can be a great alternative. Encourage your team to volunteer with human rights organizations, local community charities or other groups they are passionate about. Most nonprofits and charitable organizations can benefit greatly from the help and support of legal professionals, but your volunteer work doesn’t necessarily need to be legal in nature. Any organized effort your firm can make to contribute to a cause it is passionate about will have a positive impact on both your team and your community.
Are you ready to go beyond traditional methods of doing good and giving back? Poll your employees and see what causes they care about most and how they prefer to allocate their time. Then, use the feedback you receive to build a customized company giving program.
You might choose to partner with specific organizations that your team is especially interested in, or you might start a donation matching fund in which your law firm matches a percentage of employee donations to the causes of their choice. You could even consider starting your own initiative, like creating a program through which local high school students visit your firm monthly to learn about careers in the legal industry.
Klamp & Associates in Washington, D.C. and Marold Law Firm (Texas and California), are great examples of law firms that are dedicated to giving back in both traditional and unconventional ways. With heavy involvement in local philanthropy and nonprofit law, they embody what it truly means to be a mission-driven firm. VIsit their websites for more ideas that will inspire your small law firm’s quest to give back in the new year.
Learn more about Smokeball’s Legal Clinics & Pro Bono Attorneys Program, and get in touch with Chelsey Lambert at Chelsey.Lambert@Smokeball.com to see if you qualify for free access to Smokeball.
Here’s to an impactful 2016!