Pro Bono Rank Firm
(Am Law 200 Rank)
Am Law
Pro Bono Score
Average Pro Bono
Hours Per Lawyer
% of Lawyers
With More Than 20 Hours
Alston & Bird (50)


Colin Kelly, a litigation partner in the products liability group at Atlanta’s Alston & Bird, says that his first pro bono case was in Fulton County Juvenile Court, back in 2001. His client was a 14-year-old girl. The Am Law Pro Bono 100The case came to him as part of Alston’s longtime pro bono project, the Truancy Intervention Program, which focuses on public school students in Atlanta who have been cited for eight or more unexcused absences.

Through TIP, Alston & Bird attorneys represent students in juvenile court and interventional school conferences. TIP also helps kids complete court mandates, such as court orders to attend school and obey a curfew. Students are also sometimes required to meet with a counselor or other mental health professional to help with an underlying problem, such as drugs or alcohol.

Since its inception in 1991, TIP has advocated for more than 5,000 students. In the beginning, Alston worked on almost all of the cases, but the firm now handles about one-fifth of the caseload, because some matters can be handled by nonlawyer volunteers. The firm is also bringing TIP pro bono work to its other offices, including Washington, D.C., and Charlotte. “The firm has embraced TIP wholeheartedly,” says partner Mary Benton.

Kelly, who has appeared in juvenile court more than 50 times representing TIP clients, says that truancy is particularly problematic. If students don’t comply with truancy laws, they are often dropped from school rolls. “They would completely fall through the cracks,” he says.

The firm also includes TIP in litigation training for new associates. TIP cases generally involve two court appearances: the initial hearing and a hearing after the student has completed or failed to complete the court’s mandates. First-year associates have a chance to get courtroom training—just as Kelly did in his first case.

The young woman he represented in 2001 eventually obtained her GED and is now studying to become a registered nurse, Kelly says. “It’s not just going into the courts and representing a student,” he says. “We are having an impact, one student at a time.”

—Kristen Putch | July 1, 2009

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