Nothing would make lawyer Michael Goldman happier than devoting all his time to pro bono work for local nonprofits.
It was during 2007, his first year with Hunton & Williams, that he got an email asking if anyone was interested in working with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. That his mother had been born in Spain was only part of the reason he wasted no time volunteering to help.
“The main thing is that clients are so appreciative of any time or guidance you can give them,” he says of assisting undocumented people working as contract employees and day laborers to recover wages for work they weren’t paid for.
“It was helping folks in those communities with legal stuff that’s not easy for them to figure out on their own,” Goldman says. “Helping them get wages they’re entitled to is just the right thing to do.”
Many law firms require that 2 to 3 percent of their associates’ billable hours be pro-bono work, which averages out to about 40 hours per year. Goldman shoots higher. In addition to his paid work representing corporations and private equity groups in mergers and acquisitions, he aims for 100 hours of pro bono work a year, often exceeding that number. Much of it involves nonprofit organizations — more than 20 so far.
“Rather than just donate money to charities, which my wife and I do, this is a way I can make a difference with my time by helping nonprofits attract quality people so they’re set on a path to broader change,” he says. “The biggest impact I can have is providing my time and talents so they can do that.”
He represented the Virginia Housing Coalition and the Coalition to End Homelessness in a merger that reorganized, consolidated and restructured them into one organization. “For folks like that who have real talents,” he says, “I can help them spread their impact across Richmond and Virginia.”
The goal is to help the cause by making life easier at such an organization, whether it’s helping it get incorporated or filing for status as 501 (3)(c).
“Nonprofits move me,” he says, “and I’m trying to be a voice for change by working for them.”