What if Associates Donated a Sliver of That Big Salary Raise to Legal Aid?

A group of 200 law firm associates have put a small portion of their recent salary raises to good use.

The group, known as The Associates Committee, has awarded $200,000 worth of grants — pooled together through individual contributions of $1,000 per participating associate member — to four organizations aimed at improving the U.S. justice system.

In January, we covered the group, founded by Skadden Arps associate Corey Laplante, when the 501(c)(3) organization was seeking participation from Big Law associates and had about 106 members.

Now, the committee is at 200 members spanning 45 different law firms in the biggest legal markets — New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago — and have evaluated applications from 84 organizations for grant funding.

Each of the organizations seeking funding submitted a 60-second video, as well as other optional supporting materials, which were evaluated by The Associate Committee’s 21-member board of directors on a 10-point grading scale. The 15 organizations that received the highest aggregate ratings were then put to the full membership (excluding board members) for a final vote, and the organizations that garnered the most votes were given grants. Each member was able to vote for one single organization.

The results are in, and we’ve embedded each video submission from the organizations below to give a sense of their respective missions, alongside the grant funding awarded.

$75,000 to The Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights

$25,000 to The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless

$75,000 to The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES)

$25,000 to The Innocence Project

Ryan Hill, development director for Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights, said that he was alerted to the grant opportunity by Dana Williamson, an associate at Sidley Austin. “She was one of our law clerks, back in 2012, I want to say,” said Hill. “She remembered our organization fondly and reached out to us out of the blue. It was great to re-establish that connection.”

Hill said that the $75,000 will now go to fund the organization’s $2.2 million budget, which includes state funding and private donations from corporations and individuals. His organization aims to provide legal and social services support to juveniles in Louisiana.

Laplante, the Skadden associate who founded The Associates Committee, said the vote over funding the different organizations “was very close.”

He said the grant amounts were in line with what each organization requested, with the exception of The Innocence Project, which ranked No. 4 in the voting process. Because the committee had already granted $175,000 in grants to three other organizations, The Innocence Project was granted $25,000, below the $75,000 the organization had asked for.

The good news: Next year, Laplante aims to at least double the committee’s membership and expand into new markets including Boston, Houston, Austin, Dallas, Atlanta, Miami and Philadelphia, to bring more grant money to the table.

“There are so many more causes in need of funding,” said Laplante. “A large number of associates just got raises, we are hoping they will be generous with a portion of those and give back.”

For more information, visit www.associatescommittee.org.

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