We all know why big time law firms do pro bono work. It could be for many reasons. All clearly altruistic and humanitarian. â€œGiving back to the communityâ€. Giving associates some legal experience. It could be for reputational effect, or simply, for that warm, fuzzy feeling we all get inside when helping those less fortunate.
Generally speaking, pro bono work makes for good press. But this is not always the case.
Pillsbury Winthrop, a major law firm based out of San Fran, received a good beat-down in the local San Francisco media this week for its pro bono help to a man named Bob Kaufman.
Kaufman is a fan of â€œantique carsâ€, also known as “JUNK CARS”. The aged and rust-full ones we all have come to love. According to court documents, Kaufman â€œis addicted to acquiring vehicles. Over the last two years, he has had an average of seven cars parked on San Francisco streets at any one time.â€
Man, his neighbors must hate this guy.
Kaufman violated a San Francisco parking law requiring that cars be moved every 72 hours. Two of his clunkers were confiscated. He decided to sue the city of San Francisco and the police department for taking his darling cars away. He met a Pillsbury attorney at a legal clinic and the firm took pity on him.
From the Chronicle:
“But now Kaufman has something else â€” Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw, a high-powered international law firm. Although the Pillsbury Web site says the local office focuses on banking, technology and real estate, currently it is helping Kaufman get two junker cars back from a tow yard.
So far, the city is out $71,320 fighting what the city attorneyâ€™s office insists is a frivolous lawsuit.”
So now, poor Pillsbury is hearing it because the “cause” they took up doesn’t justify the spend of the city defending itself.
Two partners are involved in the case: Blaine Green and Thomas Loran. Loran is quoted in the article:
â€œLast time I checked it is not unlawful to park on the street,â€ said Tom Loran, a senior partner. â€œThe city has taken an aggressive approach to a guy they donâ€™t like.â€
Kaufman has taken an aggressive approach himself. This is the sixth lawsuit he appears to have filed against the city. Though this is the first time heâ€™s gotten help from a massive law firm.
Loranâ€™s appearance in the article prompted some hateful comments from Chronicle readers, including this one from â€œoldfart1â€:
the senior partner of the Pillsbury should let the guy park his rusty RV in front of his mansionâ€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦.
A spokesman for the city also attacks Pillsbury in the article:
â€œWhat you have is this white shoe, downtown law firm using scorched-earth tactics to fight for the right to litter the neighborhood,â€ said spokesman Matt Dorsey.
This doesnâ€™t reflect well on Pillsburyâ€™s pro bono efforts, but the coverage could have a positive outcome. Potential corporate clients might be impressed by accounts of the firmâ€™s â€œscorched earth tactics.â€
Either way, the lesson in all of this, is the man should have junked the cars for money. Or purchase a lot to fill up with all his mangled metal.
That way his neighbors wouldn’t have been able to snitch on him.