The Public Service Law Network (PSLaw.net)- “the online clearinghouse for law students and lawyers to connect with public interest opportunities and information on public interest careers” reports on the growing trend of law firms seeking a place for underworked lawyers or summer associates to call home during our current economic downturn. AMLaw confirms that a number of large law firms are experiencing a decline in business and, seeking to do some justice for their employees and prospective hires, are turning to nonprofit public interest programs as a port in their economic storm.
In short, the firms are offering to pay a much lower salary to some associates who accept, and are accepted for, a placement with a pro bono or legal services-type organization. The associate can ride out the economic storm doing good– and hopefully, doing well at it. But not so fast. The internet and print media are abuzz. Why? The firms are flush with associates they want to do right by. Nonprofit public interest programs battered by the decline in charitable donations need resources.
East, meet West. Or maybe this really is a match made in heaven.
It’s too soon to talk in tones other than optimistic and hopeful, but one thing is for sure: both sides are sizing up one another, and rightly so. We in the public interest sector spend our careers working to tell our story to the private bar- stories of the legal needs, the justice gaps, the lack of resources and the vision of fair play and a level playing field for people who for one reason or another do not have access to the courts or to other means of securing their rights under law. For us, the planets are aligning. In this developing matchmaking process, an opportunity presents itself for us to sit down at the table and have a fuller discussion with the private bar.
For their part, the law firms and the associates, dowry in hand, are knocking on the door, perhaps lots of doors. The associates will naturally seek to exchange vows with programs that articulate rewarding assignments or projects that align with the associate’s unique interests or passions. Make no mistake: the associates will, at day’s end, reflect on what they have brought into the marriage and upon the satisfaction they have derived from their work and the skills or knowledge they have acquired.
PSLaw.net is collecting best practices resources that can help law firms structure public interest placement programs. That’s good.
For Mama, make him a scholar! For Papa, make him rich as a king! For me, well, I wouldn’t holler if he were as handsome as anything…