A coalition of associates at Big Law firms is awarding $90,000 in grants this year to two public interest organizations, FreeFrom and Asian Americans Advancing Justice.
Since it was launched in 2016 by former Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom associate Corey Laplante, the Associates’ Committee has awarded a total of $440,000 to legal aid organizations across the country. Laplante, who now practices at Washington-based litigation boutique Wilkinson Walsh + Eskovitz, said the country’s current crop of associates are “hungry” for opportunities to engage in pro bono and philanthropic giving.
“This is a really simple way to have a large output with minimal inputs,” Laplante said after Tuesday’s grant announcement.
According to Laplante, the committee has about 150 active members each year. As the associates are occupied with the work of their firms, the foundation provides “another vehicle” for them to assist those in need of legal services, he said. This year’s $90,000 in funds were raised from 90 associates who contributed $1,000 each.
Close to 100 organizations submitted applications to receive funds this year. Laplante explained that in order to qualify for consideration, groups seeking funds needed to be sponsored by an Associates’ Committee member. From there, the board selected 15 finalists, and then the entire membership voted for the winners.
In addition to their regular application materials, the groups this year also submitted 60-second videos describing how they would use the funds.
The committee awarded a $50,000 grant to FreeFrom, a nonprofit group that assists survivors of domestic violence. Asian Americans Advancing Justice, which advocates for civil rights, legal services and education for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities, is receiving $40,000.
“What stood out for FreeFrom and Asian Americans Advancing Justice is that they were bringing innovative approaches to solve problems in the law,” said Laplante.
Sonya Passi, founder and CEO of FreeFrom, said the organization will use the funds to expand an initiative to help domestic violence survivors pursue legal compensation.
“The Associates’ Committee grant will directly help the most vulnerable seniors within the Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities navigate complex public benefits systems to ensure their basic needs are met,” said a statement from Bonnie Tang, vice president of program services at Advancing Justice Los Angeles.
The group’s Asian Language Legal Intake Line project provides toll-free hotline services for immigrant seniors who are unable to secure help from other legal service providers because of language barriers.
Laplante said members have been hosting networking events, such as video viewing parties, to connect with other associates across the country. In the coming years, the committee expects to host more panel discussions, organize networking events with in-house attorneys, and team up with firms to support more legal aid organizations, he said.