The PBEye

Pro Bono As We See It
October 25, 2011

Ford, Dykema , and CLR Team Up

In 2008, Ford Motor Company**, Dykema Gossett PLLC*, and Community Legal Resources (CLR) conceived of a program to provide legal support to Michigan nonprofit organizations.  In the wake of the recession, the nonprofits faced significant financial hardship and found it increasingly difficult to serve their clients.  Michigan was one of the states hit hardest by the economic downturn, rendering the services provided by nonprofit organizations all the more important.  Witnessing the vulnerability of nonprofits in the state, Ford, Dykema, and CLR developed a program called the Nonprofit Survival Clinic to help implement legal strategies to improve their financial wellbeing.

In preparation for the Nonprofit Survival Clinic, the partnership created a legal questionnaire to identify nonprofit concerns before the clients’ appointments with an attorney.  The questionnaire helps streamline the counseling process and ensures that clients get the most value out of their time with an attorney.

Each clinic begins with a training session for the Ford lawyers led by Dykema and CLR lawyers with expertise in nonprofit law, followed by a 90-minute one-on-one consultation between nonprofit representatives and volunteer attorneys.  During the consultation, Ford attorneys evaluate nonprofit financial vulnerabilities as well as labor and real estate issues while Dykema attorneys provide backup as necessary and are available to answer questions from Ford attorneys.  The Ford attorneys then provide the nonprofit client with a written report highlighting potential legal problems and solutions.

In addition to addressing existing legal issues, Ford attorneys counsel nonprofits on legal problems that may arise in the future.  This proactive approach saves time and money by preventing future legal problems, which enables the nonprofits to use their valuable resources to more effectively serve their communities.  Indeed, the clinics have allowed several nonprofits to avoid going out of business.

Since the inaugural Nonprofit Survival Clinic in 2009, more than 40 nonprofits have participated in eight clinics. Nearly 40 percent of Ford’s attorneys have provided assistance, with several attorneys providing representation on an ongoing basis.

*denotes a Signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®
**denoted a Signatory to the Corporate Pro Bono ChallengeSM

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