Pro bono work is more important than ever before, and Round Table Group has had the honor of working with so many attorneys dedicated to representing their pro bono clients. On our podcast, Engaging Experts, we recently sat down with Greg McConnell, the Senior Pro Bono Counsel at Winston & Strawn. Greg has been a long-time inspiration for our own pro bono programs, so we are always grateful to the opportunity to go in depth with him on this topic.
Greg states, “Pro bono publico, the last part is often left out, translates to ‘for the good of the people’ . . . the way the profession, and in particular the large law firm component of the profession, has evolved into the pro bono space is that there is a rigorous set of guidelines about what that constitutes.” This work is for low income and/or indigent individuals, for which there is a criterion that must be met.
Greg explains, “[The criteria] is based on the federal poverty rate. In the case of most of our legal aid partners, that is upwards of 150% of the poverty rate. The poverty rate is currently about $11,000 for a single individual, so we are talking eligibility for people making less than $20,000 annually. The set of people that we think are potentially eligible could be 30 to 40% of the entire US population.”
The eligibility criteria has evolved over time. Looking at this practice area historically, pro bono work used to focus on individuals with basic needs related to domestic relations, landlord/tenant disputes, and consumer issues. This has changed, opening the door for business owners. This is especially relevant for businesses in the restaurant and hotel industries, which have been hit hard by COVID-19.
“We are talking about entrepreneurs, small business owners, and non-profits. Over time we have seen our constituent group grow from being individuals to now […] about 40% going towards organizational clients and small business owners. We have been focusing a lot after the murder of George Floyd on trying to identify black-owned businesses and helping owners who are persons of color concerning business needs. Not necessarily excluding others, of course, but trying to focus on those owners and trying to help them out as much as possible.”
Greg and his firm Winston & Strawn are doing important work in this area, which is why our conversation is so timely. Throughout our conversation, Greg went into detail on other elements of pro-bono work and how he carved out a unique and inspiring career for himself. We were honored to speak with Greg, and hope that you find similar inspiration when listening to this episode of Engaging Experts, which you can find here.
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