Community Profiles: The O’Melveny & Myers LLP/Participant Media Pro Bono Partnership

In this post, read the conclusion of the community profile highlighting the pro bono partnership between O’Melveny & Myers LLP and their client Participant Media.

Throughout the immigration pro bono project, the partnership between O’Melveny & Myers LLP (O’Melveny) and Participant Media (Participant) continued to play a large role in the volunteer effort. As part of each volunteer training the film The Visitor would be shown. This really brought home the importance of the work to be done and emphasized the need for the training. Participant also helped O’Melveny put together a 10 minute video of real detainees explaining what the impact being freed had upon them emotionally, upon their cases and upon their family. This highlighted the importance and impact of the work in a very powerful way.

The trainings differed from jurisdiction to jurisdiction depending on the needs of those individual communities. The legal services organizations would indicate what their specific needs were. Sometimes they would indicate that many of their bond clients were in asylum situations and that they really needed the bond training to be coupled with asylum training. Based on those requests, O’Melveny would adjust the training to fit the need so that the volunteers could provide more successful and meaningful outcomes for the clients.

One of the great outcomes of this endeavor is that it spurred a widespread effort to assist detainees that extended beyond attorneys at O’Melveny. When O’Melveny planned a training in a particular community they would used whatever listservs were available in each city from local immigration groups and advertise to the legal community at large.  Lawyers from many different law firms agreed to attend. As a result attorneys from throughout the local communities participated in the program as the project was able to inspire so many attorneys outside of O’Melveny to become involved as well. Additionally, advocates from other cities where O’Melveny does not currently have offices asked O’Melveny to help them start similar projects.

This project is a model that could certainly be replicated through other law firm/client partnerships. The notion of teaming with a commercial client at a law firm to promote and support the public interest happens across the country. As Mr. Lash puts it, “other law firms may not create partnerships in the same way but the notion of being able to have a law firm and its client work together to fashion a community based program is quite replicable. I think that if it is carefully crafted and carefully overseen it can be very effective in strengthening a law firm/client relationship.”

Understandably there is good reason to be hesitant. For joint projects to be successful they have to be considered and planned carefully and every person’s role has to be well defined at the outset. O’Melveny embarks upon a pro bono project with commercial clients only after carefully planning those projects. According to Mr. Lash, “O’Melveny has done it with other clients and has done it successfully but a law firm must not engage in such a partnership haphazardly.  If the partnership is created with careful attention to the relationship it can be very powerful. Instead of going to a ballgame together, the parties can go to a clinic together and see each other at work, share in the experience together, and take pride in their joint effort.   This can go a long way toward cementing and deepening an already existing relationship.”

 

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