BY JENNIFER SCHREIER PELCZARSKI
Philanthropy has been a core value at Buchalter Nemer, a California-based, full service business law firm, since its founding in 1948. The Firm’s philanthropic activities continue today in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Orange County and Scottsdale, the four cities in which the Firm has offices, through the work of its pro-bono committee and the attorneys who practice there.
Three members of that committee Cheryl Lott, Kim Arnone and Richard Ormond—are among the many dedicated attorneys at the Firm who actively devote their energies and legal expertise to individuals and families seeking access to the justice system and related services. Their efforts demonstrate the triumphs that can be accomplished through direct engagement with the community and the entities in those communities that provide the assistance their constituents require.
Buchalter Nemer has long recognized the importance of ‘paying-it-forward,’ and this tenet is pervasive throughout the Firm. The Firm’s interest in acting on behalf of the greater good is clearly evidenced by its volunteerism and ongoing support to a wide variety of charities and organizations.
The Firm has several gift-giving mechanisms. Among these is an annual $125,000 grant allocated among the Firm’s four offices. Each office then donates its grant to a recipient of its choice. Among the recipients of this grant are the Public Law Center in Orange County, The Domestic Violence Project run by the Los Angeles County Bar Association and the Family Law Assisted Self Help (FLASH) Project operated by the Bar Association of San Francisco’s Volunteer Legal Services Program (VLSP).
Other organizations and programs that the Firm supports both financially and professionally include Bet Tzedek House of Justice, Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, Southern Poverty Law Center, The American Cancer Society, Habitat for Humanity, City of Hope, Boys and Girls Club of Greater Phoenix, Sojourner Center, and the AIDS Legal Referral Panel (ALRP). The list goes on and on.
“What is really great about the Buchalter grants and pro-bono work is that we are investing more than a specific dollar amount,” stated Richard Ormond. “We have an obligation to ‘give back’ to society. And, by volunteering our services and our personal time, it does make a difference to the recipients,” Ormond continued.
“Our Firm has a long history of community involvement, and it’s also a place where people really do care,” observed Cheryl Lott. “There are ten to fifteen charities in the Los Angles and surrounding areas that benefit from our philanthropic efforts, which shows what the power of coming together for a common cause can accomplish.”
Buchalter Nemer attorneys recognize the need to be present in the communities in which they live and work, and to provide assistance in both meaning ful and practical ways—through donations, advocacy and hands-on assistance.
The specialized knowledge needed to navigate the legal system underpins pro bono work and the need for increased attorney volunteerism. Action combined with resources supports sustainable change.
“There is an element of sacrifice in giving to and working with nonprofits,” acknowledged Kim Arnone. “Law is a time-consuming field, and we all have family and work commitments, but none- theless, the people at Buchalter Nemer make sacrifices to support nonprofits in our communities. Our Firm and our people don’t limit their efforts to donating funds. We also donate our time. As a consequence, we know the organizations with which we work well, and we know how best to partner with them to have the greatest impact possible for their clients and our communities.”
One such example is the work that the Los Angeles office does in conjunction with The Alliance For Children’s Rights, LA’s leading free legal service organization dedicated to “protecting the rights of impoverished and abused children and youth so that they have safe, stable homes, healthcare and the education they need to thrive.” On the Alliance’s National Adoption Day, Buchalter Nemer attorneys volunteer their time to help finalize foster care adoptions, preparing a soon-to-be family’s court papers, then representing that family at the adoption hearing.
“It is an honor to count Buchalter Nemer among our pro bono partners. By helping bring families together and ensuring that foster children have what all kids want … safe, stable, and loving homes … the Firm is directly impacting our communities for the better,” said Diego Cartagena, Pro Bono Manager, The Alliance for Children’s Rights.
Another example of the kinds of programs that Buchalter Nemer supports is one of this year’s grant beneficiaries, the National Center for Lesbian Rights. Buchalter’s grant to this organization is helping to protect the civil rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth by supporting the development of education programs and model anti-bullying legislation.
Buchalter Nemer’s grants have also helped shape national policies protecting women immigrants. “The generous grant from Buchalter Nemer made it possible for us to dedicate the resources necessary to win two tremendously significant cases on behalf of women’s rights. We are grateful to the Firm’s attorneys for their belief in the importance of supporting community efforts to obtain justice for all—and our gratitude is shared by the many women refugees who are benefiting from the outcomes of these cases,” affirmed Karen Musalo, Executive Director of the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies.
The grant was provided to CGRS at a critical time, when the Center was bringing the first two domestic violence-related political asylum claims before immigration judges under new policies developed by the Obama Administration. Two landmark cases established for the first time that extreme domestic violence may constitute persecution adequate for a grant of asylum. These cases have already begun to influence outcomes in the asylum cases of refugee women across the country.
Founded in 1983, ALRP, another Buchalter Nemer grant recipient, has handled over 50,000 legal matters for its clients over the past 26 years. ALRP is the only institution in the San Francisco Bay Area whose entire mission is dedicated to providing free and low-cost legal assistance and edu- cation on virtually any civil matter to persons living with HIV/AIDS.
“With the generous support of Buchalter Nemer, ALRP launched its law clerk internship program through a multi-year grant from Buchalter that allowed ALRP to have law clerks year round,” stated Bill Hirsh, ALRP Executive Director. “Law clerks make a big difference in our small office and Buchalter’s support had a huge impact on our ability to serve people living with HIV/AIDS in the Bay Area. In my many years of work with non-profits and non-profit boards of directors, I have been privileged to work with many fine individuals. Kim Arnone stands out as an exceptional leader who helped to steer ALRP through some especially rough waters. She is a treasure and we continue to benefit from her work with ALRP and continue to enjoy a strong working relationship with her. Her board service is a perfect example of the best of the legal profession’s commitment to justice for all, including our most vulnerable citizens.”
Through grants, volunteerism and engaged support for a range of organizations, Buchalter Nemer attorneys stay true to one of the Firm’s primary founding principles: providing meaningful philanthropic activity in the communities in which they live and work, each and every day.