Posted on July 9, 2009

When Harvey Anderson of Home Repair Ministries signed up to participate in a free “Nonprofit Legal Check-up” with Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta (PBP-Atl), he had no idea of the wealth of legal information and advice he was about to receive.

From Left to Right: George Sewell, Harvey Anderson and Robyn Miller.

Although Home Repair Ministries- a nonprofit whose volunteers assist low income and disabled individuals with home maintenance and repair- had not run into any specific legal trouble, Anderson said that he “had an inkling that there were probably issues” that the organization needed to address.

During the legal check-up for Home Repair Ministries, Anderson met with two volunteer attorneys who helped him identify several areas where the organization could use more extensive legal help. Like many nonprofits, Home Repair Ministries needed assistance in the areas of employment, contracts, construction and real estate law. Additionally, they needed someone to create liability waivers for the homeowners they assist.

For this particular legal matter, PBP-Atl staff attorney Robyn Miller set up a meeting with volunteer attorney George Sewell, executive vice president, general counsel, and secretary of The Facility Group, an engineering and construction company. This meeting marked a milestone for PBP-Atl: the placement of its 1,000th legal matter with a volunteer attorney.

“We are very excited about this milestone,” says Rachel Spears, Executive Director of PBP-Atl. “The response from the legal community since we opened our doors almost four years ago has been amazing. Lawyers truly want opportunities to do pro bono work helping nonprofits. We are excited to have been able to pair nearly 1,000 attorneys with over 350 worthy nonprofits,” says Spears.

In 2005, a coalition of corporations and law firms joined together to create PBP-Atl in order to give attorneys more opportunities to do pro bono work in their areas of expertise by providing nonprofits with free legal services. Specifically, PBP-Atl provides legal aid to nonprofits serving the needs of poor and disadvantaged communities in Metro-Atlanta.

“My main impression of lawyers before this experience was from reading Grisham’s The Firm,” laughs Anderson. “I have been so impressed that George (Sewell) is willing to give up those all-important ‘billable hours’ to help us. He is very easy-going and engaging and never seems to be watching the clock as I had expected,” adds Anderson.

A relatively new volunteer to PBP-Atl’s program, Sewell says that he has found the experience extremely rewarding. “Drawing up these types of agreements is something I have done for years and can complete in an about an hour. For the agency though, this is a big deal and they are so grateful for the assistance,” says Sewell. “These agencies are truly worthy organizations and I am glad to be able to use my skills to help them out,” he adds.

Anderson has been equally surprised in his experience with PBP-Atl staff attorney Robyn Miller. “Robyn has been very thorough and very helpful. Every time a new question comes up, she is willing to research it and quickly get back to me. George is just the first of several attorneys she has lined up to help me on our various legal matters. I’m getting so much more help than I ever expected, and it is so great to finally have good information and be able to pass this along to our board members,” says Anderson.

For Anderson, the resolution of this legal matter marks an important point in the progress of Home Repair Ministries as well. “This experience is helping us look to the future with a lot more understanding of what we need to do to continue the mission of our organization while protecting those who help us. A small non-profit starting out like ours could never afford to pay attorneys. We are very grateful for all the help we have received from Pro Bono Partnership.”