Engaging Pro Bono Lawyers

lawThere’s a huge movement these days to help business leaders recognize that pro bono involvement — that is, volunteering the skills you do on your day job — can mean more than just legal work.

Ironically, this focus on going beyond law in some ways obscured the really great stuff that lawyers can contribute through pro bono service.

In a “Cultivating Capacity” column that appeared in last month’s VolunteerMatch Nonprofit newsletter,  my colleague Jennifer Bennett wrote  a great piece about how lawyers can help your organization strengthen its operations and ensure that you’re working within the best practices.

Here were a few of the project ideas Jennifer discussed:

Update Employee and Volunteer Policies –  Do your manuals include the most current laws and best practices? Wouldn’t it be great if you knew that they did? This project might include some or all of the following:

  • Hiring and termination policies
  • Economically driven layoff plan
  • Ensuring all employee wages and hours comply with current laws

Update Procedures for Protecting Intellectual Property — Too often we hear the same story about intellectual property issues within organizations. A volunteer has offered expertise to create a logo, Web site, or some similar product. The well-meaning volunteer trademarks or copyrights this work. The relationship between organization and volunteer dissolves over time, or due to a conflict. The organization now finds itself in a difficult situation.

A lawyer who specializes in intellectual property can help your organization prevent or prepare for this type of situation.

Review and Update Governance Policies and Documents — When  was the last time you reviewed your organization’s by-laws? It might be time for an update.

Corporate lawyers can:

  • Update or draft by-laws and other corporate documents
  • Draft fiscal sponsorship documents
  • Create conflict of interest agreements

Jennifer also posted a list of organizations [PDF] that can help match you with lawyers available to do pro bono work in your area.

(Photo – the law, via Flickr)