paying it forward
An eco-minded organization looks to expand its
outreach with in-house lawyers. BY ASHLEY POST
There’s a difference between cheering for the
underdog and helping the underdog win.
That’s the philosophy
of the founders and volunteers at Green Pro Bono.
The Boston-based pro
bono network connects
mostly local, environmentally focused non-profits
and social entrepreneurs
with local and national
lawyers who can assist
them with legal issues—
the goal being that the
free legal aid will help
the organizations grow
social enterprises really
need the pro bono work
because they don’t have
the funds to pay legal fees,
but they have great missions,” says Nancy Reiner, a
founder of Green Pro Bono
and a managing director at
Major, Lindsey & Africa.
Reiner developed the
concept of Green Pro Bono
about two years ago when she was a director at the
Boston office of legal services company Counsel on
Call. Before that, she was a partner at Brown Rudnick
Berlack Israels, where she had tried a number of climate change-related cases. “But I really wanted to do
something that could have more of an impact on climate change,” she says.
After bouncing ideas off her law firm and in-house
Dianne Callan and Nancy Reiner
contacts, Reiner discovered that there wasn’t a pro bono
organization in the U.S. that specifically provided services to environmental and climate change-related
groups. From this realization, Green Pro Bono was born.
Reiner and the other Green Pro Bono founders
began reaching out to environmental groups that
might need assistance setting up a 501(c)( 3), advice on
how to maintain non-profit status, or help with general contracts and real-estate leases.
At one networking event geared toward social
enterprises, Reiner met the founder of a non-profit
called Citizens Market (now known as Fosfo), which has
a mission to empower consumers to shop responsibly.
“He developed a phone application where you can
scan the barcode of a product and determine its car-
bon footprint or its impact on child slavery,” Reiner
explains. “He needed a media lawyer to figure out his
website liability. What’s cool about Green Pro Bono is
that media lawyers don’t usually get to do pro bono.
And believe it or not, most lawyers want to do some
kind of pro bono just to feel good about their work and
do something that improves the world.”
A senior media partner from Goodwin Procter vol-
unteered to help Citizens Market on a pro bono basis
through Green Pro Bono, and Reiner says the organi-
zation couldn’t have been happier.
Dianne Callan, a founder of Green Pro Bono and
director of the New England chapter of Environmental
Entrepreneurs, a community of business leaders who
advocate for environmental groups, says Green Pro
Bono’s next goal is to increase its volunteer base with
more in-house lawyers who are passionate about social
entrepreneurship. Callan says in-house involvement
will help to further develop both Green Pro Bono and
the organizations it helps.
“The motivation is to make a connection between
those two populations,” she says. n