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VOL. 122 | NO. 72 | Thursday, April 19, 2007

Adams and Reese Steps Up Pro Bono With Appleseed Partnership

By Amy O. Williams

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When people think of the type of pro bono work done by attorneys, most often that image probably is one of a lawyer helping someone with limited resources.

But the regional law firm Adams and Reese LLP is working to add some different types of pro bono work to the public's mind. Adams and Reese, with offices in Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Texas, Louisiana and Washington, D.C., announced in December it had partnered with the Washington-based nonprofit Appleseed.

The pro bono organization is geared toward getting attorneys to do what is sometimes considered non-traditional pro bono work, such as provide support services for other pro bono agencies or lobbying the legislature.

The partnership was the first such agreement of its kind. In its agreement with Appleseed, Adams and Reese provided the nonprofit agency with a partner from its New Orleans office, attorney Christy Kane.

Beginning Jan. 2, Kane, whose title is now the ConocoPhillips/Adams and Reese Fellow, began directing Louisiana Appleseed's efforts during 2007.

"I think the relationship we have established with Louisiana Appleseed is unique in that I don't think any other firm has done that with Appleseed yet," said Brian S. Faughnan, the management-level pro bono partner for Adams and Reese.

Important partnerships

There is a current trend in the legal community for law firms to establish partnerships with both large and small organizations in a similar capacity to Adams and Reese's relationship with Appleseed.

"But I think what we are doing with Appleseed in Louisiana is groundbreaking," Faughnan said.

Kane will work for one year with Louisiana Appleseed, doing pro bono work typically not associated with the type of public service done by attorneys.

"It is more geared toward policy-minded changes such as perhaps drafting legislation, tracking legislation, lobbying the legislature or perhaps doing a study," she said.

Louisiana Appleseed's headquarters are housed in Adams and Reese's New Orleans office. Kane said 100 percent of her time working for Louisiana Appleseed will be spent getting the organization established in the community and in the state. She will be working with city and government leaders and other nonprofit agencies to support them in the way they need.

For example, Louisiana Appleseed is creating handbooks for an organization in child custody cases. Kane went to the New Orleans Pro Bono Project, an organization that provides one-on-one pro bono representation, and asked what kind of help they needed most.

"So we are working now on some handbooks for attorneys who will do pro bono work in child custody cases," she said.

Kane's projects with Louisiana Appleseed also include having a law firm perform a study, such as one that recently looked at teacher recruitment efforts in the New Orleans area.

Kane said when she describes Appleseed's projects as non-traditional pro bono work it's because what the lawyers do is different than helping a lower-income person draft a will or handle a dispute with his or her landlord. And that type of project is typical work being done for free for a client who would not otherwise be able to pay for an attorney's services.

"What Appleseed is geared toward is recognizing the need for that one-on-one representation," Kane said. "But really trying to step back and look at things from a systemic perspective, from a policy-minded perspective and say, 'How can we affect change for the most people?" That is what Appleseed seeks to do and tries to get legal minds together to work on that kind of change."

Policy for change

The partnership with Appleseed coincides with Adams and Reese's new policy of mandatory pro bono work. The firm, which employs about 300 attorneys, this year is requiring 10 hours of pro bono work for each of its attorneys. The number of required pro bono hours will increase to 20 per attorney in 2008.

And Faughnan, who is responsible for approving all of the pro bono requests for the firm, said the new policy is working well.

"Our lawyers want to do pro bono," he said. "Our lawyers want to pitch in and help in the community. Our lawyers want to do those things and they have always wanted to do those things. Within our firm I think the message has been received in the way we hoped it would in going to mandatory, which was that giving back to the community is as important as the other things we require you to do."

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