Baker Donelson Believes in Giving Back
From homelessness to debtors' prisons, volunteer lawyer programs to non-profit transactions, Baker Donelson is always involved in a wide variety of pro bono projects. Some highlights are featured below and in our pro bono brochure, which you can download here. Also check out examples of the pro bono work being done by a specific Baker Donelson office by clicking on the office links below. For continuing updates and current events, visit our pro bono blog, One Good Turn.
Efforts to help alleviate the legal problems associated with homelessness have become something of a unifying thread at Baker Donelson. We see the effects of homelessness in each of our communities every day, and we are always searching for more ways to make a difference in the lives of those experiencing homelessness. Through our extensive involvement in the Homeless Experience Legal Protection (HELP) program, we coordinate and volunteer at regularly scheduled clinics for the homeless in Birmingham, Memphis and Nashville, and we are also regular volunteers at the HELP clinics in New Orleans, where the program originated. We are working to expand the HELP program to more cities around the country.
Our New Orleans office provides coordination for the monthly New Orleans Homeless Court, which offers individuals a chance to dispose of cases that may be standing in the way of jobs, housing, benefits and other paths out of homelessness. We are currently working on the development of similar programs in our other office markets as well.
A highlight of the year for us is our involvement in Project Homeless Connect. PHC events bring pro bono legal services together with many other services for hundreds of homeless people under one roof in a single day, and we are extremely gratified to be able to help organize and bring the legal services to these events.
2013 Birmingham Project Homeless Connect
Debtors' Prisons and Private Probation
Our work with the homeless brought an even more widespread and chronic problem to our attention: municipalities around the Southeast victimizing the poor by assessing monthly "probation" fees on low income people who already lacked the ability to pay a traffic or misdemeanor fine, resulting in mounting debts they can never hope to pay. Some went even further, revoking "probation" for those who fell behind in their payments, putting them in jail for traffic and other petty offenses for which the law never envisioned jail time. A few municipalities went further still, charging the poor additional fees for the privilege of staying in jail. Beginning in Alabama, we have worked to put a stop to these practices and to protect the rights of indigent people in the courts. Our work in this area is now expanding to our other communities.
Baker Donelson Non-Profit Institute and Transactional Pro Bono Work
As a full service law firm with a wide range of practice areas, we're in a great position to help nurture non-profit organizations that are so valuable to our communities. Non-profit organizations have most of the same legal needs that for-profit businesses do, but are often working with a tiny staff, volunteers and a shoestring budget. They may not even be aware of what their legal needs are or know that help is available. For that reason, we formed the Baker Donelson Non-Profit Institute (BDNI) to raise awareness and help non-profit organizations with their legal needs. Through BDNI, we offer training to non-profit boards about the fundamentals of good stewardship and the responsibilities and liabilities of directors, and we provide a review of basic organizational documents to ensure compliance with current laws and regulations. By participating in BDNI training and review, non-profits can identify other legal issues that may need attention and make a connection with a Baker Donelson attorney who can help. Click here to learn more about our BDNI program.
Whether through BDNI or our other resources, we're pleased to help many non-profit organizations with legal needs ranging from contracts and real estate transactions to tax issues, intellectual property and more.
Pro Bono Partners
We are blessed with the opportunity to work hand-in-hand with many worthwhile organizations that make pro bono assistance available in our communities. If you would like to know more about these great organizations, or are looking for help, please click on a link for information.
The Pro Bono Process
Baker Donelson's pro bono programs are overseen by our Pro Bono Shareholder, Lisa W. Borden, and by a Pro Bono Committee made up of attorneys and staff from around the Firm. Each office has a Pro Bono Coordinator who helps to ensure that our attorneys can find pro bono projects to suit their skills and interests, and that pro bono organizations and community non-profits can access the help they need. Feel free to contact Lisa or the coordinator in the office of interest if you have questions: