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Pro Bono

Overview

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Goulston & Storrs has proudly provided pro bono legal services since 1900. Our founding attorneys committed to doing this work when few commercial law firms did, boldly taking on many indigent and sometimes unpopular clients to defend their civil rights and liberties.

For roughly 120 years, we have represented individuals in need and nonprofit organizations that serve those individuals, and taken on numerous causes that make our communities and our planet better. Today, we provide services to more than 100 nonprofit organizations and countless individuals. The more audacious the client is, the more interesting and challenging the legal experience is, and the more meaningful and valuable the work is to us.

Our pro bono work is a deeply rooted tradition that is now part of our cultural DNA; helping to define who we are and gluing us together as a firm. We believe pro bono service is not only an obligation of the legal profession – it is part of who we are.

The extent of our commitment is evidenced in our historic work, just some of which is highlighted below:

1. Service to the ACLU. Our service to the ACLU dates to its inception in 1920. We have served the Massachusetts chapter, the first state in the affiliate network, ever since founder Roger Baldwin recruited lawyers to resist a widespread government crackdown on anti-war dissenters, labor organizers, and immigrants. Our lawyers have regularly served on the ACLU board, and we have acted as the outside general counsel to the Massachusetts affiliate for many years.

2. Sacco and Vanzetti. In 1927, Herbert B. Ehrmann of our firm stepped forward to defend Italian immigrants Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, who had been accused of murdering a guard and paymaster for a Braintree shoe company. Ehrmann strenuously argued for reversal of their convictions at trial, pointing to subsequently recanted testimony, conflicting ballistics evidence, a prejudicial jury foreman statement, and a confession by an alleged robbery participant. The appeals were fruitless, but Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter argued their innocence in a published article, and Gov. Michael Dukakis issued a proclamation of their wrongful trial and conviction on Aug. 23, 1977, the 50th anniversary of their executions.

3. Hoyt v. State of Florida. In 1961, Mr. Ehrmann and others once again took a stand for justice, arguing all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court that a woman convicted of killing her husband was entitled to a jury of her peers that included other women. A Florida statute at the time provided that no woman would be drafted into jury service unless she volunteered for it, which effectively resulted in all-male or overwhelmingly male juries. The constitutional challenge failed but paved the way for other cases, including one brought by attorney Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 1968. Finally, in the 1975 case Taylor v. Louisiana, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed this policy in Taylor v. Louisiana, making jury service eligibility equal for men and women.

4. Civil Rights Causes. The firm represented Coretta Scott King, the widow of slain civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, and has consistently and publicly supported other civil rights leaders as well. For decades, our lawyers have also worked for equal access to justice, serving organizations such as Greater Boston Legal Services, the Legal Advocacy & Resource Center, the Volunteer Lawyers Project and the Access to Justice Commission.

5. The Full-Service Pro Bono Model. Our firm was a pioneer in developing a full-service pro bono commitment to the nonprofit organizations that we support. Our collaborative approach brings to pro bono clients a team of lawyers who help them with employment matters, organizational structuring, intellectual property issues, litigation, leasing, zoning and licensing, construction and development, real estate acquisitions and dispositions, and matters involving charitable giving, trusts, and foundations.

6. Oxfam and Other International Work. For decades, we have worked with organizations that are dedicated to international social justice missions, and our lawyers have traveled extensively to support these efforts. One of the nonprofit organizations we have long supported is Oxfam, an international confederation of 20 NGOs working with partners in more than 90 countries to end the injustice of poverty. Oxfam uses advocacy to tackle the systems, policies, and practices that keep people trapped in poverty, taking on inequality, climate justice, gender justice, and inequities in the food chain, as well as advocating for the basic human rights and dignity of survivors of conflicts and disasters.

7. The ABA Pro Bono Publico Award. In 1984, the ABA issued its first Pro Bono Publico Awards to individual attorneys who had dedicated significant portions of their careers to pro bono service, and in 1989 it issued a Pro Bono Publico award for the first time to an entire law firm for its dedication to pro bono work. That firm was Goulston & Storrs. See AmericanBar.org.

8. The Lawyers Clearinghouse on Affordable Housing and Homelessness. The Boston Bar Association and Massachusetts Bar Association founded this organization in 1988, enlisting the private bar in the effort to secure justice for the homeless. David Abromowitz of Goulston & Storrs, who is now the Chief Public Policy Officer for YouthBuild, was one of the Clearinghouse’s founding members. This program served as the model for bar-sponsored pro bono groups throughout the country. Building on this model, our firm now runs its own Lawyers Clearinghouse Legal Clinic program, which involves three annual service clinics that provide homeless and low-income individuals with legal assistance they need. Our lawyers handle up to 25 cases annually involving immigration, security, housing, and other issues.

9. Constantly Expanding Reach. Goulston & Storrs has continuously sought out new pro bono clients and new ways in which to serve them. Our nonprofit pro bono client list now includes more than 100 organizations dedicated to dozens of missions involving social justice, environmental protection, defense of civil liberties, affordable housing, community development, disaster relief, juvenile justice, and other worthy causes.

10. Above and Beyond. Both lawyers and staff members of our firm have gone above and beyond the ordinary level of commitment in contributing time and effort to worthy nonprofit causes. We have rolled up our sleeves, building homes with other volunteers, building beds for children who don’t have them, providing shoes and clothing to the underprivileged, and flying into disaster zones to rebuild schools, community centers, and other structures. We have also regularly volunteered our service in other capacities, serving on nonprofit boards, and hosting training and other programs.

To read more about the uniqueness of our pro bono commitment, why we do it, what we do, for whom we do it, and what our pro bono clients say about working with us, click on one of the following tabs in the left-hand column on this page:

  • A Unique Commitment
  • Why We Do It
  • Full-Service Experience
  • Clients With Causes
  • What Clients Say
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