Changing Lives Every Day

ALRP board member Erin Smart knew she wanted to be an attorney when she was still a child. “I understood it would mean going to law school even then,” she said, “but I wanted to love what I did for a living, and see how the law has an impact on people’s day-to-day lives. And now that I’m an attorney, I do.”

When Erin graduated from law school six years ago, she interned as a San Francisco public defender and then joined the staff of Bingham McCutchen LLP. She has been a litigation associate for the firm ever since, representing clients in civil litigation involving commercial disputes, intellectual property and securities in courts all over the country. As part of the firm’s partnership with the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights, she also represents indigent clients in various matters such as clearing criminal records and contesting citations related to homelessness.

There was already a strong connection and commitment between Bingham McCutchen and ALRP for many years before Erin joined the firm. Now she is part of helping that relationship thrive and grow.  “One of our partners had been the point person for ALRP at Bingham, since he was also an ALRP board member,” she said. “He was moving on from that role and introduced me to ALRP. I was so impressed that I joined the board as well. People at Bingham absolutely love ALRP, which makes my job easy.”

ALRP provides trainings to show Bingham attorneys the types of cases they could take on as pro bono projects and introduces them to mentor attorneys. It’s all part of the larger picture of Bingham pro bono work. “Volunteering is a big part of Bingham,” Erin said. “We have an active pro bono program that gives us the opportunity to work in partnership with organizations like ALRP, donate time to schools, financially sponsor events, and join boards.”

Before becoming part of the ALRP Board in 2011, Erin had already served on the board of Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom (BALIF). ALRP was a great fit for her interests. “One of the most compelling things about ALRP, and what makes me want to spend my time and resources there, is that they do such a good job of leveraging their resources,” said Erin. “Through the pro bono panel attorneys, they’ve been able to provide millions of dollars of free legal services to their clients. Bill and the staff make their funds go far. And they’re extremely dedicated.”

Beyond that, Erin is moved by the personal impact that ALRP services have on clients’ lives. “ALRP clients are often individuals with very limited means who are reaching out for services that are critical to their health,” she said. “Getting involved in a legal situation can be devastating for their health and finances. That’s a big part of my personal reason for being involved. ALRP is an exceptionally viable and worthy organization that’s having a very personal and real impact on its clients’ lives.”

Published September 2012