Biglaw firms do pro bono work for all sorts of reasons: to “give back to the community,” to give associates varied legal experience, for reputational reasons, and for that warm, fuzzy feeling we all get helping those less fortunate.
Usually pro bono work makes for good press. But not always.
Pillsbury Winthrop got a good thrashing in the San Francisco Chronicle this weekend for its pro bono assistance to a man named Bob Kaufman.
Kaufman is a fan of “antique cars”… of the old and rusted variety. According to court documents, Kaufman “is 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.”
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 babies 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 — 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 attorney’s office insists is a frivolous lawsuit.
We expect the hippies in California to hate on Biglaw, but not for their pro bono efforts…
“Last time I checked it is not unlawful to park on the street,” said Tom Loran, a senior partner. “The city has taken an aggressive approach to a guy they don’t like.”
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 he’s gotten help from Biglaw.
Loran’s appearance in the article prompted some hateful comments from Chronicle readers, including this one from “oldfart1”:
the senior partner of the Pillsbury should let the guy park his rusty RV in front of his mansion…………….
A spokesman for the city also attacks “the Pillsbury” in the article:
“What you have is this white shoe, downtown law firm using scorched-earth tactics to fight for the right to litter the neighborhood,” said spokesman Matt Dorsey.
This doesn’t reflect well on Pillsbury’s pro bono efforts, but the coverage could have a positive outcome. Potential corporate clients might be impressed by accounts of the firm’s “scorched earth tactics.”
Suit over 2 junker cars has cost city $71,320 [San Francisco Chronicle]