Pro Bono Partnership provides business and transactional legal services to nonprofit organizations serving the disadvantaged or enhancing the quality of life in neighborhoods in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Substantially leveraging the impact of its in-house legal staff, the Partnership annually mobilizes hundreds of attorneys from major corporations and law firms to donate their time and expertise on behalf of its nonprofit clients, enhancing their ability to improve conditions in their communities.
Our goal is to provide the highest quality business legal advice to any qualifying nonprofit organization when they need it, without requiring them to sacrifice critical program resources to acquire it.
For 20 years, Pro Bono Partnership has provided high-quality pro bono transactional legal services to community-based nonprofits throughout CT, NJ and NY. The Partnership prioritizes organizations that help disadvantaged individuals and whose programs have a significant impact on the communities they serve. We have helped thousands of organizations—such as homeless shelters, food pantries, childcare organizations, veterans’ groups, social service agencies, and education programs—become more effective and efficient through valuable, cost-free legal advice and assistance. Our unique model, in which we recruit and support hundreds of volunteer attorneys from major law firms and corporations, allows us to serve nearly 800 nonprofit clients annually, ultimately impacting the more than 2.25 million individuals these nonprofits serve and making the Partnership’s impact on the local nonprofit sector extraordinary.
The Partnership was established in November 1997, by several members of what was then known as the Westchester County, NY - Fairfield County, CT, Corporate Bar Fund to facilitate volunteerism by business attorneys.
In 2000, the Partnership expanded its program to northern New Jersey at the request of several New Jersey Fortune 1000 companies, subsequently extending services to nonprofits throughout the state. In 2003, the Partnership helped launch the Hartford, CT, Nonprofit Pro Bono Initiative; in February 2008, the Nonprofit Pro Bono Initiative merged with the Partnership, becoming the Partnership's Hartford Program and extending services to nonprofits throughout Connecticut. In 2007, the Partnership broadened its geographic focus to include Orange, Putnam and Rockland Counties in the lower New York Hudson Valley and extended services to assist arts and civic organizations and environmental and conservation groups.
The Partnership has also helped to found two, independent sister organizations. In 2005, the Partnership helped found Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta and, in 2014, Pro Bono Partnership helped to found Pro Bono Partnership of Greater Cincinnati (now known as Pro Bono Partnership of Ohio).
Also in 2014, Marcia Levy became the new Executive Director of the organization. Ms. Levy succeeded Richard S. Hobish, co-founder and first Executive Director. She has embraced the position with enthusiasm and has helped to expand the Partnership’s services to nonprofit organizations on Long Island, NY.
Since our founding in 1997, the Partnership has assisted more than 2,350 nonprofits in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut on more than 10,500 legal matters, enabling them to more effectively feed the hungry, house the homeless, promote the arts, protect the environment, and provide essential programs to children, the elderly, immigrants, the disabled, and the unemployed.
In 2016, Pro Bono Partnership responded to a tremendous increase in Requests for Legal Assistance from nonprofits over the previous year. The Partnership experienced a 9% increase in the number of legal matters handled, a 12% increase in client engagement, and a 20% increase in volunteer engagement compared that of 2015. As demand for our assistance continues, so too will our need for support. Because we have retained our commitment to provide free legal services to our nonprofit clients, we rely almost entirely on annual gifts and grants to fund our many programs.
The Partnership has four programs: Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and, most recently, Long Island, NY. Support for these programs is crucial to the continued provision of our full range of services to nonprofits in each region.
In addition, the Partnership continues to seek more volunteer attorneys to provide their expertise on behalf of our nonprofit clients. Volunteers handle business and transactional matters, including those regarding contracts, employment and labor, intellectual property, and real estate.
Pro Bono Partnership has a unique mission; no other organization provides free legal services to nonprofits in the tri-state region, and we are one of a handful of similar agencies nationwide. Our mission also has a multiplier effect through its work strengthening a broad range of organizations, including those addressing homelessness, hunger and limited access to education, human and social services. These nonprofits regularly need legal guidance to comply with changing regulatory frameworks and requirements; address diverse business legal needs, including contracts, labor, and real estate; and minimize the risk of lawsuits and liabilities. In strengthening these nonprofits, we ultimately strengthen the communities in which they serve - helping to improve the lives of more than 2.25 million individuals.
As evolving state and federal laws demand increased diligence, nonprofits must choose between funding legal services or client programs. Already, funding for programs is insufficient; the 2015 Nonprofit Finance Fund State of the Sector Survey reported systemic, perpetual funding challenges for nonprofits. Of those surveyed, 76% reported an increase in demand, with more than half reporting that they couldn't meet demand and had less than 3 months of cash-on-hand. With a relatively small staff and budget, Pro Bono Partnership provides an immensely valuable and expensive service to a large nonprofit client population - largely without cost. In 2016, our small staff collaborated with more than 1,300 volunteer attorneys to provide over 22,400 hours of legal counsel - an estimated value of $9.4 million. Ultimately, our free legal resources ensure that no nonprofit ever has to choose between the expense of expert legal advice and the cost of supporting programs vital to community growth and vitality.
Pro Bono Partnership staff attorneys and volunteer attorneys are making vital contributions at a time when local nonprofit organizations are striving to sustain the quality of life for millions of people. However, even more support will be needed going forward as nonprofits become more aware of the law, comply with ever-changing regulatory frameworks and requirements, and prepare for changes implemented by the new Administration.
Prior to the Partnership’s founding, the nonprofit community in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut did not have access to affordable legal aid or the arsenal of easily accessible legal resources, like our Legal Resource Helpline and our expansive educational offerings. The Partnership’s reach has expanded each year over its twenty-year existence. The fundamental concept of in-house lawyers, often working with outside counsel, addressing the transactional and governance issues of non-profits working with the disadvantage in our communities, now reaches 5 states.
As a former GE lawyer, I know how strongly many Corporate General Counsels stress the community contributions, professional development, and civic benefits of taking on pro bono work. The key is finding pro bono work that fits the skill set of in-house counsel who specialize in IP, M&A, Securities and other such transactional work. Through the wonderful and talented Partnership staff — led now for two years by Marcia Levy — matches of need and ability are aligned. This matchmaking permits our volunteer attorneys — through what I call “collateral caring” — to relieve management of organizations serving the poor, the disabled, veterans, victims of abuse, and others — of their organization’s legal concerns so our caring civil leaders can better spend their time and resources on their client’s needs.
Increasing demand from nonprofits comes at a time when the nonprofit sector is expanding to address increasing need from the community, and although demand directly correlates with the success of our organization, we sometimes confront the challenge of too much demand for our capacity. Managing the growing need for business legal counsel has been a challenge for the Partnership, ultimately prompting the need to hire a new Staff Attorney, Kristen Centre, to support nonprofits in Westchester and Fairfield Counties. Kristen Centre joined the Partnership’s staff in September 2016 and has already made a substantial impact on the Westchester and Fairfield nonprofit community by assisting 25 nonprofit organizations with 37 legal matters since joining the PBP team in September 2016; we estimate the value of the legal services she has provided to her clients at greater than $200,000.
In spite of this challenge, however, the Partnership has observed a marked increase in the legal sector’s interest in providing pro bono services to community organizations over the last several months. We hope to use this momentum to forge even stronger relationships with our individual volunteer attorneys and the legal community overall.
In 2016, Pro Bono Partnership helped nearly 800
nonprofit organizations with more than 1,660 legal matters, employing the
expertise of just over 1,300 volunteer lawyers. From the New York Nonprofit
Revitalization Act to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the laws
governing nonprofits continue to change. As a result, the need for the
Partnership’s services continues to increase.
The Partnership regularly checks in with all
clients and volunteers working on active matters to make sure that both are
satisfied with the progress. At the close of each matter, we ask every them to provide specific feedback about satisfaction and impact.
· Legal Services Overall: 97.4%
· Legal Resource Helpline: 98.4%
· Direct legal assistance by attorneys: 97.8%
· Workshops/webinars: 93.6%
· Publications: 93.4%
Responses demonstrated that the Partnership’s legal assistance had substantial impact by helping them avoid mistakes (91.8%), better understand and comply with the law (91.6%), make their organizations stronger/more effective (90.2%), and incorporate better governance practices (88%).
Clients often write short testimonials about their experience with Pro Bono Partnership and the impact that free legal services had on their organization; for instance:
Our engagement [with PBP] has saved us at least $17,000 in legal fees that can now be invested in providing services to our clients.
In 2016, we tackled the most difficult and divisive contract negotiation of our organization's brief history. It was a huge learning process for our leadership team and our board. If we didn't have an excellent attorney to help us navigate the process, we very likely would have signed something that harmed our organization. If our attorney hadn't been available for free, we would have blown through thousands of dollars in legal fees we couldn't afford. I'm very grateful to all of our volunteer attorneys, but especially the one that helped us through that difficult negotiation – and to Pro Bono Partnership for connecting us.
Marcia Levy, Executive Director, began her stewardship of Pro Bono Partnership in 2014. She is responsible for oversight and management of the organization.
Before leading Pro Bono Partnership, she served as the Associate Dean of the Office of Career Services and Professor of Professional Development at the Benjamin N. Cardozo Law School. Previously, Marcia was the Special Counsel for Pro Bono and Director of Professional Development at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP where she developed and supervised litigation and transactional pro bono opportunities for the firm’s lawyers.
Marcia’s experience also includes service for the Legal Aid Society, first, as a staff attorney with the Prisoners’ Rights Project, and then as an assistant federal defender in the Eastern District of New York. She spent over 14 years in legal education, holding academic positions as a Clinic Director and Clinical Law Professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, Rutgers Law School and Hofstra University School of Law. In addition, she was the first Director of the Eric Neisser Public Interest Program at Rutgers.
Marcia consults on legal education internationally for ABA ROLI and other organizations. She was Counsel and is now Special Advisor to Chief Judge Lippman’s Task Force to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services (now the Permanent Commission on Access to Justice). She is a member of the NYC Bar Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service and Non-Profit Organizations Committee, the NYSBA President’s Commission on Access to Justice and the Committee on Legal Aid, and served as Chair of the Association of American Law School’s Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service. In 2007, Marcia was awarded the Robert E. Oliphant Service to the National Institute for Trial Advocacy (NITA) Award, and she has been a NYSBA Empire Awardee for Pro Bono Service. She has also appeared on numerous media outlets including CNN, FOX, MSNBC, and Court TV. In October 2015, The New York Law Journal recognized Marcia as one of their 2015 “Lawyers Who Lead by Example” for her “leadership through [her career] in public service [and through her] devotion to improving the legal system and profession in New York.”
Marcia is admitted to the bar in New York and New Jersey, as well as Oregon (inactive). She graduated from State University of New York at Albany and Northwestern School of Law, Lewis & Clark College.
Nancy Eberhardt, Director, New Jersey Program (New Jersey Office), provides direct legal services to New Jersey non-profit groups, recruits volunteer attorneys to provide legal services, supervises client outreach, and coordinates nonprofit educational programs in New Jersey.
Nancy was formerly in private practice with a focus on environmental law. Nancy currently serves on the Pro Bono Committee of the New Jersey State Bar Association, and is an adjunct professor in Department of Public Administration at Kean University. She has served as trustee on the boards of many New Jersey nonprofit organizations.
She is admitted to the bar in New Jersey, and is a graduate of The College of William and Mary and of Rutgers School of Law – Newark.
Priya Morganstern, Director, Hartford Program (Hartford, CT, Office), oversees the Partnership’s services in Connecticut (other than in Fairfield County). Priya provides direct legal services to local nonprofits; connects nonprofit organizations with volunteer attorneys; lectures frequently about nonprofit and tax-exempt organization law; and trains volunteer attorneys as necessary in various aspects of nonprofit and tax-exempt law.
Prior to joining the Partnership in 2008, Priya directed a similar pro bono program, the Nonprofit Pro Bono Initiative, which operated from the campus of the University of Connecticut School of Law. Before starting her public interest career, Priya was Counsel at Day, Berry & Howard LLP (now Day Pitney) in its Hartford office, where she was a member of the Firm’s Health Law and Tax-Exempt Organizations practice groups and an active member of the Firm’s Pro Bono Committee. She also worked in the area of health law as a member of the legal department of Aetna, Inc. Priya serves on the board of the National Foundation for the Advancement of Midwifery, and is a member of the Connecticut Bar Association’s Pro Bono Committee. She is a Fellow of the Connecticut Bar Foundation’s James W. Cooper Fellows Program, established to honor the leading members of the legal profession and the Judiciary in Connecticut.
Priya graduated from the State University of New York and Boston University School of Law, where she was a G. Joseph Tauro Scholar and a Paul J. Liacos Scholar.
Maurice K. Segall, Director, New York and Fairfield County, CT, Program (New York Office), provides direct legal services to nonprofit groups, coordinates and supervises the work of staff and volunteer attorneys, and frequently lectures on legal issues for nonprofits and attorneys.
He was previously an associate at Cummings & Lockwood and Wofsey, Rosen, Kweskin and Kuriansky. He serves on the Risk Management Committee of Family and Children’s Agency, and has served on Boards of several nonprofit organizations including the Fairfield County Bar Foundation, the Wilton Library, Family and Children’s Agency, Connecticut Consortium for Law and Citizenship Education, Connecticut Legal Services, and Curtain Call. He has also served on the Advisory Board for the Fairfield County’s Community Foundation Center for Nonprofit Excellence.
Maurice is the founder and coordinator of the Fairfield County Bar Association High School Mock Trial Competition, now in its 26th year; and is a recipient of the Liberty Bell Award from the Stamford/Norwalk Regional Bar for outstanding community service, the first practicing attorney ever to receive this honor.
Maurice is admitted to the bar in New York and Connecticut. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware and Albany Law School of Union University.
Christine Michelle Duffy, Senior Staff Attorney (New Jersey Office), provides direct legal services to nonprofits, recruits and supports the work of volunteer lawyers from the region’s leading corporations and law firms, and periodically presents our two-day Human Resources Boot Camp for New Jersey Nonprofits.
Christine initially was in a private law practice for twelve years, where Christine had a varied practice, including labor and employment law, products liability, environmental law, insurance coverage, admiralty, government contracts, business organizations, and higher education law. Then, for twelve years, Christine was the chief compliance officer and chief labor and employment counsel for a leading international environmental services company.
Christine serves or has served on the boards and committees of several organizations, including the Board of Visitors of Fenway Health, the Board of Directors of the New Jersey Chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel, the Advisory Board of Seton Hall Preparatory School, the Editorial Board of the New Jersey Law Journal, and the Supreme Court of New Jersey Committee on Civil Practice. Christine has written and lectured extensively on a variety of matters, including labor and employment law, administrative and civil practice, ethics and compliance, and professional responsibility. In 2014, Christine’s most recent book, Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Discrimination in the Workplace: A Practical Guide, was published by Bloomberg BNA.
Christine is admitted to the bar in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York. Christine holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the W. Paul Stillman School of Business at Seton Hall University and a juris doctorate degree from Seton Hall University School of Law.
Courtney Darts, Director of Education, oversees the Partnership’s educational workshops, publications, and internship program. She also provides direct legal services to nonprofits in New York and Connecticut, focusing on nonprofit, tax-exempt, and corporate governance matters.
Prior to becoming Director of Education, Courtney was a staff attorney at the Partnership for several years. She was previously in private practice with Kelley Drye & Warren LLP and was a member of the Stein Scholars Program in Public Interest Law at Fordham. Courtney is admitted to the bar in Connecticut and New York. She is a graduate of Fairfield University and Fordham University School of Law. She also serves on the board of directors of Search for Change in Valhalla, New York.
Jennifer Grudnowski, Senior Staff Attorney (New York Office), provides direct legal services and education to nonprofit organizations, focusing on employment law matters.
Previously, Jennifer was Senior Employment Counsel at Berger Legal LLC in New Rochelle, NY. She was also Managing Counsel for Regency Corporation in Minneapolis, MN, where she focused on employment law matters and regulatory affairs. In addition, she held a role as Senior Counsel at Fair Isaac Corporation in Minneapolis, MN, where she managed domestic and international employment matters, corporate litigation and e-discovery.
She is admitted to practice in New York (active), Connecticut (active), Minnesota (inactive) and Illinois (inactive). She received her undergraduate degree from Washington University and her juris doctorate from Washington University School of Law.
Heidi J. Siesfeld, Director of Development, is responsible for supporting the Partnership’s fundraising activities, including the fundraising efforts of the Board of Directors.
Heidi is a development professional with more than 20 years experience in the New York metropolitan region, supporting capital campaigns, major gifts and institutional initiatives at Wave Hill, Greenwich Hospital and The New York Botanical Garden. As a consultant, Heidi worked with the Queens Botanical Garden, the Boys and Girls Club of New Rochelle, Summit Music Festival, The New Dawn Foundation and the National Parks Conservation Association, among others.
She is a 2014 graduate of Leadership Westchester, a member of the Association of Development Officers and serves as a board member for the New Rochelle Day Nursery. Heidi is committed to raising awareness of and support for creative initiatives which enhance families and communities by making connections and cultivating relationships.
She is a graduate of Purchase College and holds a master’s degree from Hofstra University.
Jessica Markowitz, Director of Finance and Administration, the Partnership’s second longest-serving employee, joined the Partnership in 1997 as Program Assistant and was promoted to the Director of Finance and Administration in 2000.
She oversees all operational, IT, finance, Human Resources and administrative functions for the Partnership. Prior to joining the Partnership, Jessica worked in customer service for an IBM subsidiary as well as a Mitsubishi subsidiary and also spent several years working in retail bookstores.
Jessica is a graduate of Purchase College, where she held positions in the student government, and holds Master of Public Administration with a concentration in nonprofit management from Baruch College.
Kent E. Hansen, Senior Staff Attorney (New Jersey office), has many years’ experience as a corporate generalist.
He previously served as Executive Vice President, Administration, General Counsel and Secretary of Fedders Corporation for more than twenty years. In addition to the law department, he led the company’s Human Resources Department and the real estate and insurance functions. He is admitted to the bar in New Jersey and is a graduate of Rutgers University and St. John’s University School of Law.
Mindi Lund, Director of Marketing, leads the Partnership’s strategic marketing and communications efforts to nonprofit clients, volunteer attorneys, and funders. Prior to joining the Partnership, Mindi worked in marketing and creative services for a division of Time Inc., and as a consultant in internal communications and marketing for pharmaceutical companies, educational institutions, and other nonprofit organizations. She is a graduate of the University of Kansas School of Journalism.
Indirect Public Support HelpIndirect public support represents revenue received through solicitation campaigns. This includes funding United Way and other federated fundraising organizations, but does not include donor designated contributions.
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