For the public good. As well as our own.
Pro bono. We’re all familiar with the term, but how often do we stop and think about what it really means? Literally translated, it means “for the public good.” At Finnegan, it is also for the good of our clients, our lawyers and staff, and our community. We believe that giving back is also an opportunity to receive knowledge, expertise, experience, and the good feeling one gets from helping others.
To us, pro bono isn’t just a program. It’s a state of mind. And it’s a way of life. That’s why our involvement is as varied and diverse as the professionals at our firm. We don’t restrict programs to just a few that senior management deems worthy. We let our professionals tell us what is important to them and where they feel they can best put their passion and expertise to good use. More than 40 percent of our lawyers are actively engaged in pro bono activities. We credit 80 hours a year toward their billable hours goal. For those who choose more involved pro bono work such as litigation, the additional hours are rewarded and credited toward merit bonuses.
Some may think that a firm focusing solely on intellectual property is limited in the type of pro bono work it can take on. The exact opposite is true. Finnegan’s IP professionals are intellectually curious, talented individuals who enjoy new challenges. We handle highly complex “bet-the-company” IP matters for some of the world’s largest companies and organizations, and we bring the same level of focus, skill, and commitment to achieve the best possible outcomes in the pro bono matters we undertake. The results are highly rewarding. Our lawyers sharpen their skills by litigating criminal and civil cases, negotiating agreements and settlements, and working hand-in-hand with community non-profit organizations to address their constituencies’ legal issues. We help artists, children, the elderly, veterans, the homeless, and other groups in need that might not be heard without our assistance.
Here is a look at some of the organizations and programs that our pro bono program supports:
Litigation Mentor Program
This unique program combines service to the community with top-notch litigation training. Barbara Butterworth, who leads the effort, previously served as Deputy Director and Adjunct Professor of the Juvenile Justice Clinic of Georgetown University Law Center, and she has extensive criminal trial experience. The program enables our up-and-coming trial lawyers to accept court appointments as defense counsel with training, assistance, and encouragement from Barbara and other experienced litigators at the firm. Barbara serves as co-counsel and gives our lawyers a thorough grounding in the rigors of the courtroom and jury persuasion tactics as they represent their indigent criminal defendants in local courts.
The program expanded to Virginia in 2008, when the U.S. District Court in Alexandria approved our request to start a program. Jonathan Shapiro, a renowned trial lawyer, serves as our firm’s Virginia Litigation Mentor. The program allows our lawyers to handle pro bono criminal cases in conjunction with the Federal Public Defender's office.
Veteran’s Assistance Program
Finnegan has one of the most, if not the most, extensive pro bono programs serving the needs of veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces. Nearly 90 attorneys and staff participate in Finnegan’s pro bono program serving disabled military veterans. The program focuses on appeals in the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. We review approximately 300 pre-screened Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) decisions each year. Since the program commenced in July 2008, the firm has handled approximately 750 appeals, with more than 80 appeals handled in 2015. An exemplary case is our representation of a navy veteran who became mentally ill during his time in service. The veteran had been fighting for over a decade without success, when Finnegan attorneys took up his case. We developed evidence and the veteran finally prevailed, obtaining a 100% disability rating. This severely disabled veteran will now receive monthly disability payments as well as a substantial retroactive payment.
Washington Area Lawyers for the Arts
We serve on WALA’s board and for several years took full-time responsibility for the WALA pro bono referral program, matching volunteer lawyers with over 1,000 people from the arts community who needed legal advice or representation.
Children's Law Center
We handle many cases at the request of CLC on behalf of both children and adults. The cases typically involve adoption or guardianship of neglected children, contested custody, guardian ad litem representation of children, and other family law issues. Many of the cases require night and weekend time, visiting families and observing interaction between parents and children. We also helped CLC establish and implement its training program.
Asian Americans for Community Involvement
Our Palo Alto office works with ACCI to represent women and children who have been victims of domestic violence, helping them obtain restraining orders against abusers and allowing these victims to start a safer life. In addition to helping these victims through legal advocacy, we have also volunteered our time at the AACI Asian Women’s Home, a shelter for families and individuals who because of domestic violence have no where else to go.
Asylum Representation Program
One of our longest-established pro bono efforts, this program provides assistance to refugees who have fled their home country for racial, religious, ethnic, political, or social reasons and are now facing deportation from the United States.
Arts Council of Silicon Valley
In a rare opportunity to use the firm's IP licensing skills in a pro bono endeavor, we worked with an ACSV non-profit program, the Artsopolis Marketing Partnership, to develop a comprehensive licensing and network membership package for Artsopolis.com, an online resource for arts and cultural information.
Legal Aid Society
We helped Legal Aid develop its litigation training program, and we are on its volunteer attorney list to assist on cases ranging from landlord-tenant to child custody disputes.
Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights & Urban Affairs
One of the firm’s partners serves on the Committee’s board of directors. In addition, Finnegan provides financial support to assist the Committee with cases and projects involving issues of discrimination, poverty, and education reform both in and outside the D.C. metro area. Additionally, Finnegan is working with the Committee on ways to provide legal support to the Committee’s projects.
DC Bar Pro Bono Program
The Bar looks to us as a resource for support when it is in need of an experienced litigation firm.
Trademark and Copyright Pro Bono Program
Through a grassroots referral network, our lawyers have provided pro bono trademark and copyright advice to organizations ranging from non-profit community organizations to artists and innovators.
Law Foundation of Silicon Valley
Our Palo Alto office has worked with the Law Foundation through its Fair Housing Law Project to help clients who have been victims of predatory lending practices by financial institutions.