Cole Finegan, Hogan Lovells

Hogan Lovells orchestrates pro bono projects on an international level and a local level

Cole Finegan
Cole Finegan

LAW WEEK: What types of pro bono projects does Hogan Lovells take on?

FINEGAN: On a global basis, we’ve done several things. One is we have focused on something called Empowering Girls and Women. It’s the Empowering Girls and Women Initiative. And we made a commitment to that of the Clinton Global Initiative. We pledge to devote at least 56,000 hours of volunteer time and $1 million in philanthropic contributions to support that, and we have certainly done that. In fact, we made that commitment back in 2015 and as 2018 closed, we went well beyond that in achieving our goals that we’ve set. 

Globally on a pro bono basis. We did 140,000 hours in 2018. And that was just attorneys, and then for staff we did 165,000. 

LAW WEEK: And you have a benchmark for pro bono hours for each attorney? 

FINEGAN: Twenty hours. And when you go by some of these offices, some of the doors will show who achieved what they were supposed to achieve. 

LAW WEEK: How is that pro bono structured throughout the firm?

FINEGAN: Certainly, in terms of the citizenship and philanthropy, we have got a whole team that’s based in London and in Washington and New York, and those folks really run these programs. 

And then obviously we have people that work within each of the offices or office administrator. 

And then we also when we look at associate hours, typically we want associates to bill 2,000 hours, but we count 150 hours of pro bono time toward that goal. So we’re encouraging them not only to do that, but we recognize it and when we look at the metrics in terms of their compensation, that’s factored in there also. 

LAW WEEK: On the local level, how do you organize what your pro bono efforts are as far as assigning cases and how it fits in with someone’s hours? 

FINEGAN: Over the years, we’ve just had some very interesting programs, and I can divide them into different areas. We have got a team of lawyers led by Gina Rodriguez and Jodi Scott, who have championed these four Guatemalan children who came up seeking political asylum and were separated from their families. And this is a case that’s been winding its way to the federal courts here for at least two years where we’ve devoted thousands of hours of pro bono time. So that’s one place where we’ve done something like that. 

Another one is the Rose Andom Center, which is the domestic violence center here in town, which came together after 10 years of work by Mayor Hancock and then-district attorney Mitch Morrissey and myself as the former city attorney. We raised approximately $13 million over 10 years and Hogan Lovells provided all the legal service for free. We provided hundreds, if not thousands, of hours for that.

 It was a woman named Sierra Russell who tragically died unexpectedly about a year ago, but she gave hundreds of hours of pro bono, and we helped secure the land, get the land swap put in place, get all the permits, raise the dollars to do the permitting the real estate world so there’s examples of you know, some pro bono cases that I remember here in Denver that we worked on.

Then we’ve got citizenship programs that have been going on for many years. There’s one at Cheltenham Elementary that we have been doing for well over a decade where we have lawyers and staff who go there in person, and then they perform online literacy, tutoring. 

They can do it in person, or we do it via telephone and computer from our offices here. So, you know, people work for half an hour each week to visit the students are to work with the students and children. 

We do a Bill of Rights program there where we go and we’ve had a number of volunteers, give in-person presentations over the years to the kids at Cheltenham about the Constitution, civil rights, civil liberties, how laws are made.

We had the Women’s Bean Project that we’ve been involved in for a number of years we have up to six volunteers at anytime and they go work on the production floor side-by-side with the women in the program. That is a project that’s been in place for many, many years and it’s really about helping women who have had a hard time in life. They may have been in prison, had drug issues or alcoholism and getting them back on their feet, getting them a job. 

And then we have a number of people, like my assistant goes over to the Ronald McDonald House, and they help with the meals or the cleanup or help with the families whose children are seeking treatment at local hospitals. 

LAW WEEK: How have these projects specifically been identified? 

FINEGAN: What we’ve tried to do over the years is certainly at the global level, I think it has been very intentional and we’ve looked at different places where we think we could really make a difference. 

Locally because we are so involved in the community — Hogan Lovells has been here for 26 years and now going on our 27th year — and we’re very involved in the community, so there’s a number of us who’ve been involved in the government or in different aspects of Denver life, so as we identify issues and know about them, what tends to happen is people get involved with nonprofits and they serve on the board or identify projects that they want to help with. 

And lastly, I mean, I’m sure this won’t surprise you, but it’s also groups and foundations, I think have become much better at broadcasting their needs and what kind of help they need and they reach out to law firms and professional organizations. 

LAW WEEK: Do you feel like there has been any increased focus or change in expectations for law firms to be more involved? Or is this just something that’s always kind of been baked in?

FINEGAN: Well, I can only speak for Hogan Lovells. I think it’s all always been baked in here. And I certainly think there are a number of law firms that historically over the years have given back to the community and been very generous. So I don’t think this is anything new. I think maybe because of social media and some of the ways that we communicate now, it looks different. 

They may be handled in a different way, but I think particularly in a city like Denver where for many years, we really have not had many large companies, Fortune 50 companies that are in Denver, law firms have historically filled that gap, and we’ve been part of the fabric of the community and have certainly stepped in to fill the void in terms of providing citizenship opportunities and working with people less fortunate. 

LAW WEEK: You mentioned about attorneys getting recognition for their pro bono work on their door, how is that important for the culture of the firm? 

FINEGAN: We spend a lot of time on culture. Particularly in a firm this large, you have about 90 lawyers here in Denver, we’ve got 2,800 lawyers around the world, 50 offices, we spend a lot of time on culture because culture, in the end, is what knits us together. And that’s what is going to help us work together and make a difference. 

We spend a lot of time talking about the communities in which we work and how we give back to those communities, so when we do something with the doors or we put something on the door, that’s just our way of acknowledging that, ‘Hey, we appreciate the work you put into this. We recognize that you’ve, you know, spent a considerable amount of your time on that. 

And it’s no secret that it’s really difficult for everybody and the busier the world is, the harder it is to carve out time to do a citizenship project or do a pro bono project, particularly if you’re someone who has a young family, or you’re working here 70 or 80 hours a week, and now you’ve got a family at home and you got kids of your own and responsibilities, and now we’re saying, ‘Hey, can you give a week? A night to go work on this? Sometimes that’s a real challenge for people. 

So we want to encourage it and make sure that we’re being as supportive as possible. 

LAW WEEK: So why show that support or why make that effort? Why do you think it’s important to be involved in that way? 

FINEGAN: I think it’s important for us to reflect back to everyone who works here that this is more than just a machine or just where you come to work and we’re here to make money and to be engaged in a professional life. We’re trying to signal that we’re part of the community, that we live here. 

We want Denver to be a wonderful place to live. We want it to be a wonderful place for ourselves. We want it to be a wonderful place for our children. We want to try and help people who are less fortunate. 

We just think that’s something that we need to do, that we need to give back. And obviously, we’re very blessed. And we’ve all been lucky enough to have these nice jobs. And we’re inside on a day where it’s 12 degrees outside and we’ve got a nice place to work.

 So how can we give back? How can we show that we’re involved and that we want the community to be better? And I think if you look at our record, you know, not just to our individuals and the lawyers who are here but our record as a law firm, we’ve done that over the years.

LAW WEEK: Do you feel that there’s anything that the firm is benefiting from? 

FINEGAN: Well on the simplest level — and I really mean this on the simplest level — I think it’s really good for all of us to get outside of being in a law office working with professionals in a climate-controlled environment and to go out and be with real people and to see what it’s like when you go work at the Ronald McDonald House. 

You’re really confronting the reality of these people are dealing with younger children who are sick, and they’re trying to get through the day, or when we go over to Cheltenham and we’re dealing with children — that’s a school where everybody there is on the free lunch program. All those children are coming from a tough place and those teachers are working with them every day, so that’s good for us to see. 

Here’s a slice of real life, this is what life really looks like. Or when you know folks go over to the Women’s Bead project and you’re in essentially an assembly line next to somebody who spent the last 10 years in prison and she’s trying to figure out how she’s going to get her life back together and maybe reconnect with their family or avoid getting involved again and a drug habit that was disastrous. This is a very privileged place we are in, and we should recognize that, so we should definitely give back.

LAW WEEK: Do you have any favorite pro bono projects or really important pro bono projects that you’ve worked on throughout your career?

FINEGAN: I would say the Rose Andom Center is the one that’s the closest to my heart because it was conceived of when I was the city attorney and that was work with Mitch Morrissey as the district attorney and Michael Hancock was a city councilman, and we were trying to figure out how we could get this resource building put together where you could have the District Attorney’s Office and lawyers and medical personnel and counselors for victims and a nursery where people can bring their children and possibly medical personnel so people could be examined. How we could begin to raise the money for that and include all those services together. 

And that was something that we worked on for a decade. That was 10 years of our lives now. So that was very meaningful. 

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