While being a lawyer or an attorney can be challenging and demanding, it’s also gratifying. On top of the work lawyers already do, such as advocating for their clients, many lawyers and their law firms also found ways to give back to their communities during the pandemic and the recession. And it’s no surprise since law practitioners, at their core, are called to provide a service to society by advocating for those who cannot do so for themselves. Here are some ways the legal community has given back to those in need during the COVID-19 crisis.
The majority of lawyers give back to those who need help the most by doing pro bono work, which is the act of representing a client without charge. The practice of pro bono has been in place in the United States as early as the 18th century. Many firms have systems to provide their lawyers with the opportunity to represent those who may not necessarily have the resources to pay for legal fees.
The American Bar Association reports that thousands of lawyers, law firms, students from law schools, and non-profit legal services organizations participated in last year’s National Pro Bono Celebration. Many of these practitioners helped address issues such as domestic violence, mental health, sick leaves, eviction, and accessible voting—issues that were aggravated by the COVID-19 crisis. Truly, many lawyers stepped up for the vulnerable during these unprecedented times.
The concept of fundraising and charity is not foreign to most of us, and it certainly isn’t in the legal community. During the COVID-19 crisis, many lawyers helped soften the financial blow of the pandemic and the recession by helping raise financial support for vulnerable communities and frontline healthcare workers.
Law firm employees and the Morrison and Foerster Foundation teamed up to donate $45,000 to organizations like Project HOPE and One Foundation. They also continued to provide donations to homeless individuals, low-income students and families, nurses, doctors, and other emergency and medical personnel.
Another example is the University of Michigan Law School, which had to move all of its classes online. Because of this, the school’s well-loved cafe employees found themselves without work and a source of income. Two law professors then decided to set up a GoFundMe page for the staff, and they raised tens of thousands of dollars, surpassing their goal.
Licensed lawyers are also known for mentoring the next generation of attorneys, especially at such a time. Many lawyers are not letting the physical limitations get in the way of coaching and mentoring their juniors in their law firms, with many senior lawyers opting to meet with their juniors through virtual coaching sessions.
One example is the 2civility mentoring program, which helps connect seasoned lawyers with upstart lawyers to help them navigate the ins and outs of their profession and build a robust legal network and how to have confidence as they deliver legal services.
Aside from law firms, many non-profit legal services organizations help ensure that justice is accessible for all, not just for the few who can afford to pay for legal fees. These organizations often help clients get connected with lawyers and law firms and provide access to invaluable resources like full-service court reporting and other technical expertise. Some examples of these organizations include Lawyers Alliance in New York, LegalCORPS in Minnesota, and the Public Law Center’s Community Organizations Legal Assistance Project (COLAP).
Many lawyers and their groups also came together to educate the public about the various issues they had to contend with due to the COVID-19 crisis. One example is the member volunteers of the California Lawyers Association, who came together to produce videos educating the public about the following issues:
- How small business owners can navigate commercial tenant laws during the pandemic
- Family members’ visitation rights if any of their loved ones are confined in the hospital due to COVID-19
- Bankruptcy and employment issues
- Vaccinations in the workplace
- Disability accommodations
And many others. Truly, the association is set on being an information hub to help guide the public in any of the scenarios they have to face during the COVID-19 pandemic and recession.
Many lawyers and law firms across the globe have stepped up during the pandemic as many issues have appeared in these difficult times. This kind of situation is an inspiring reminder that we are all in this together, whatever our profession is, and that we will overcome as long as we come together for the common good.