Imagine this scenario: You are a partner at a prestigious law firm, and you’ve just returned from pitching a prospective client on using your firm’s services as a very small piece of a nearly $15 billion project. You report to your colleagues, “I’ve got some good news, and some even better news. The good news is we’re getting the business. The better news is we’re not being paid.” Advertisement
I can’t know whether that scenario actually occurred, but chances are something similar to it took place at the law office of WilmerHale, the successor to the blue-blood Boston firm Hale & Dorr.
WilmerHale was recently designated as the legal representative of Massachusetts Governor, and likely presidential aspirant, Mitt Romney, against the head of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, Matt Amorello. This is the high-profile case over the collapse of a ceiling that killed a motorist in a connector tunnel—part of the nearly $15 billion Big Dig. A governor engaging a law firm isn’t big news, except that WilmerHale is providing its legal work on a pro bono basis.
Pro bono legal assistance is generally thought of as something that law firms provide as part of their civic duty, to help indigents charged with a crime or nonprofit organizations with miniscule budgets. In fact, WilmerHale says on its Web site that its pro bono program is “based on the belief that there is more to our professional mandate than advocacy for the most powerful and successful members of society.”