It’s not easy for nonprofits to navigate the complex maze of local, state and federal laws that govern their organizations without the help of attorneys. And those legal services can get pricey for grassroots nonprofits with limited resources. Luckily, that’s something Active Transportation Alliance doesn’t have to worry about.
Active Trans benefits from pro bono legal services provided by Kelley Drye & Warren LLP’s Chicago office. The international law firm’s generous legal advice helps Active Trans stay focused on its mission while giving Kelley Drye a fascinating inside look at how the nonprofit works to improve walking, bicycling and public transit in Chicago.
As a result of the firm’s outstanding legal assistance to Active Trans for the past four years, we will honor Kelley Drye with the Volunteer Leadership Award at the Active Trans 2018 Awards Reception on March 7 (tickets still available!). As a full-service firm, Kelley Drye has advised Active Trans on a variety of issues, ranging from commercial real estate leases to human resources advice to public policy research.
“Kelley Drye has a strong belief in giving back to the community. When Active Trans approached us and asked us if we could help them with a discrete matter that was within my area of expertise, it was an easy decision to say, ‘Yes, we can help you with that, and we can help you with other issues as well,” says Matt Luzadder, a partner at Kelley Drye who is the lead Kelley Drye attorney for Active Trans. “We believe in Active Tran’s mission and wanted to give it as much support as we possibly could.”
Pro bono work is a priority for Kelley Drye, according to Luzadder. The firm has a pro bono committee and regularly dedicates its time and services to pro bono clients, particularly nonprofits. Across all of its offices globally, last year Kelley Drye performed about 8,300 hours of pro bono work valued at more than $4.7 million. Last year the Chicago office provided nearly 300 hours of pro bono services.
The lawyers at the Chicago office work with a variety of local nonprofits, including the Better Government Association, a government watchdog organization; Operation Underground Railroad, which rescues children around the world from sex trafficking; and Geography of Hope, which provides scholarships to low income students so that they can participate in outdoor, adventure and travel programs.
“Kelley Drye has a really open policy with helping nonprofits. This is one of the things that was a real stand out to me as a young lawyer here,” Luzadder says. “Even as an associate, you can go out and find a nonprofit and make a pitch to say, ‘I want to devote some of my time to this organization,’ and the answer is yes. Associates are given accountable time and credit for it. The firm regularly recognizes those who are providing legal services and giving back to the community. It’s a culture supported across the firm.”
Luzadder and the other lawyers at Kelley Drye enjoy working with their nonprofit clients. Luzadder says it’s a very different environment than the adversarial system they usually work in with their commercial litigation cases. They are not only inspired by the dedication of the nonprofits they work with, it gives them insight into community needs and the opportunity to help address those needs by providing their pro bono legal services — broadening their skill sets and helping to make them well-rounded lawyers, according to Luzadder. For example, he is impressed with the depth and breadth of Active Trans’ work advocating for legislation, infrastructure and activities that promote safe, healthy and sustainable transportation. As a result, he is more aware of and engaged in the issues surrounding walking, bicycling and public transit in the city.
“The projects for Active Transportation are exceedingly positive. You’re doing work for clients that’s building something for the community. That’s where work for nonprofits is rewarding because at the end of the day or at the end of the project, you get to see what your efforts have helped to build. You’re able to see your contribution even if it is only on the legal side,” Luzadder says. “Oftentimes in litigation it’s two parties fighting each other. With Active Trans, this is always a net positive result.”
Photo, courtesy of Kelley Drye, features the attorneys who work on the Active Trans account: From left to right, those pictured are Courtney Kleshinski, Matt Luzadder, Brittany McElmury and Mark Scott.
Don't miss Active Trans' 2018 Awards Reception on March 7, when we'll be honoring businesses and organizations that have helped improve biking, walking and public transit in the region.