Jeffrey S. Galvin, a partner at Downey Brand, who currently serves as Chair of the Sacramento County Bar Association Pro Bono Committee and has worked as his firm’s Pro Bono Coordinator, is no stranger to the need for more investment in pro bono services. With 17 years of experience leading the charge, Galvin reflects on the work he has done thus far to develop a structured approach to this work.
What is your role in supporting Pro Bono efforts at your firm?
I led the development of our firm’s pro bono program about 17 years ago. We went from an ad hoc approach to a policy that encourages and supports pro bono service. I served as the pro bono coordinator at the firm for about 10 of the last 17 years. It’s been fun to find opportunities for our lawyers and to encourage them to explore on their own. I am currently the Chair of the Sacramento County Bar Association’s Pro Bono Committee.
Why is this work important in law?
There’s obviously a lot of unmet need. There’s also a deep reservoir of volunteerism in the Bar. The challenge is to create well-packaged pro bono opportunities to connect lawyers with clients.
What’s the case you are most proud of?
I have developed a couple of projects. One is that our firm’s lawyers for four years have volunteered one or two evenings per month at the Sacramento County Law Library, providing brief advice to hundreds of clients through the “Lawyers in the Library” program.
More recently, I created an Estate Planning Clinic for low-income individuals in partnership with the Voluntary Legal Services Program and the Sacramento Estate Planning Council. We create wills, financial powers of attorney and health care directives for clients. We have experienced estate planning lawyers mentoring lawyers who have no such experience. Clients walk out the door smiling at the end of the evening with signed documents. Everyone needs incapacity planning regardless of affluence and folks of modest means also have strong preferences as to who will inherit from them.
I also have enjoyed various advocacy opportunities for individual clients, including the opportunity to argue a Ninth Circuit pro bono case, which we won, involving entitlement to Social Security disability payments.
What advice would you give to an attorney who is looking champion pro bono efforts at their firm?
Consider both the practical business aspects and the loftier side. A strong pro bono program supports recruitment and retention of talented lawyers and helps boost overall firm morale.
You can follow Galvin on his blog, Trust on Trial.