At Polsinelli, we are deeply committed to our communities and facilitate a culture that embraces providing pro bono services to those in need.  We encourage all of our attorneys to devote time to pro bono work by providing full billable credit for pro bono matters, and by creating pro bono partnerships with national and local legal service organizations to assist those in need.

A June 2017 study by the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) found that 71% of low-income households experienced at least one civil legal problem, including problems with domestic violence, veterans’ benefits, disability access, housing conditions, and health care.   To help bridge this services gap, and create positive change, we have established a pro bono practice that focuses on providing legal services to individuals and nonprofit organizations that cannot afford representation. It is through this practice we hope to build and unite our communities.

Our pro bono practice is led by our director of pro bono, and supported by our pro bono liaisons and cause committees.  Most offices have at least one local pro bono liaison that works with the pro bono director and local legal service organizations to address the needs of that particular community.  Our cause committees are focusing on addressing ways in which our firm can use its national footprint to create a larger impact in these areas: (1) civil rights; (2) immigration/asylum; (3) housing/urban revitalization & economic development; (4) corporate governance & non-profits; and (5) families children & veterans.  Each year we continue to focus on strengthening our partnerships with legal service organizations in our five focus areas to assist the most vulnerable in our communities.

Areas of law in which our attorneys frequently provide pro bono legal services include: 

  • Guardianships, adoption, guardian ad litem
  • Corporate, real estate, tax counseling to non-profits
  • Civil rights
  • Immigration, asylum
  • Landlord and tenant disputes
  • Housing abandonment claims for urban revitalization efforts
  • Estate planning, HC POA & advance directives
  • IP pro bono patent work through the US PTO Pro Se Assistance Program
  • Community economic development/microenterprise representation in struggling urban centers
  • Indigent criminal representation in court appointed matters
  • Serving as general counsel to non-profit organizations

We also volunteer our services at legal clinics across our communities to provide general legal advice. It is our goal that through our community-driven, people-centric pro bono practice, we will improve people’s lives and strengthen our communities as a whole. 

In 2018, more than 410 attorneys and 80 paralegals, representing all of our 21 offices across the country, provided pro bono services to those throughout our communities. They recorded over 28,000 hours of pro bono work, benefiting more than 700 individuals and organizations coast to coast.  

We have been a proud sponsor of the Pro Bono Institute since 2010. We are also very active in each of our office’s bar and civic communities, including urban renewal programs and entrepreneur start-ups in low income neighborhoods, further exemplifying our pledge to members in our communities.

  • Litigation Associates Cecelia Carroll and Britton St. Onge provided pro bono legal services for the Missouri Coalition of the Right to Counsel as part of a statewide public-private partnership between the public defender’s office and private law firms. The work of the private bar, including many Polsinelli attorneys, is meant to assist in alleviating the backlogged public-defender system which has been highly-scrutinized. Both attorneys were recognized for their pro bono efforts, being named “Up and Coming” attorneys in 2018 by Missouri Lawyers Weekly. 
  • Polsinelli has partnered with Legal Aid of Western Missouri to provide pro bono services for the Adopt-A-Neighborhood Project since its inception in 2015. In doing so, the firm has consistently demonstrated its long-term commitment to economic development and empowerment for progress in low-income, distressed neighborhoods within Kansas City’s urban core. As part of that effort, more than 20 Polsinelli attorneys, led by Shareholder Brendan McPherson, worked with the Key Coalition neighborhood association to obtain title to vacant properties and buildings for rehabilitation and redevelopment. They also assisted the non-profit Nile Valley Aquaponics obtain non-profit status, as well as a patent for its processes, and secured a lease for the organization to have a teaching center.
  • In April 2018, all Missouri prisons were ordered to be entirely smoke-free because of the pro bono legal efforts by Polsinelli Associate Phillip Zeeck. In 2017, Zeeck co-represented plaintiff Ecclesiastical Washington with former Polsinelli Shareholder Michael Foster in a trial claiming that various Missouri prison officials were deliberately indifferent to Washington’s serious health needs and failed to take reasonable measures to keep him free from exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke. Zeeck and Foster spent hundreds of hours preparing for and representing Washington at trial. Their dedicated pro bono commitment won Washington $40,000 in damages and a complete smoking ban for correctional facilities in the entire state. The attorneys were recognized for their deserving work on the case by the Missouri Bar Foundation, receiving the Pro Bono Publico Award last month.
  • In March 2018, Polsinelli partnered with chemistry professor Syed Jamal’s immigration counsel to secure the release of the father of three from a detention facility and then obtain permanent resident status. Jamal’s arrest, as he was taking his young daughter to school, captured attention from national and local media outlets across the country. Polsinelli deployed its top litigators and public policy attorneys to work on his release. The threat of deportation is no longer imminent after the Board of Immigration Appeals agreed this August that Jamal should be given an opportunity to present his deportation case to an immigration judge. 
  • The Children’s Law Center for Maricopa County Arizona awarded Polsinelli the law firm of the year award. Many of the Phoenix lawyers represented indigent families on a variety of matters, including adoptions, guardianships, custodial rights, and other related family law concerns. Polsinelli attorneys are heavily involved in this program that provides an avenue for individuals who cannot afford the services of an attorney to secure guardianship of a minor child, or to adopt a child due to changes in family circumstances. 
  • In March, 2014, several Denver attorneys worked together to file an amicus curiae brief in two same sex marriage cases in the Tenth Circuit on behalf of prominent Western Republicans who support same sex marriage. The team worked closely with GLAD and the Gill Foundation on the brief, as well at the national media team out of NY and DC. The brief received extensive press coverage. 
  • Through its financial investment and the investment of attorney hours, Polsinelli actively supports Legal Aid of Western Missouri.  The organization provides free civil legal assistance to people who need it, however, cannot afford it. 
  • Through the efforts of several Polsinelli attorneys, the firm assisted a local church in its efforts to recover and rebuild from a catastrophic fire that was deemed an accident caused by a service company worker in 2011. The firm represents churches in pro bono matters, many of which involve first party insurance recovery claims.
  • Nearly $300,000 in attorney time will be provided to the building of the new Irish Arts Center in New York City. This $54 million project will sit on land donated by the city of New York City. Several Polsinelli attorneys located across the country have been heavily involved with the project, providing legal services to include real estate, tax, finance, non-profit, labor and employment, and construction. The project is being funded by donations and fundraising efforts have been significantly influenced by celebrities like Liam Neeson, Bono, Pierce Brosnan, Gabriel Byrne, and philanthropist, Loretta Brennan Glucksman.
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