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Is Ropes & Gray Afraid of Law Students?

Volokh Conspiracy's Jim Lindgren has this post that quotes from the Right Coast about
Ropes & Gray's decision to abandon one of its clients, Catholic Charities of Boston.  According to these posts and a Boston Globe article, Ropes had been assisting the charity in investigating ways to limit or prohibit placement of children with gay and lesbian couples.  This did not sit well with various gay and lesbian groups at Harvard Law School, who met with Ropes' managing partner to express dissatisfaction (according to the article, some students also suggested that Ropes' work for the charity conflicted with other pro bono work the firm had done for gay and lesbian interest groups).  In any event, Ropes & Gray has since dropped Catholic Charities.

The Right Coast and Lindgren are critical of Ropes' decision, characterizing it as an abdication of a lawyer's duty to handle unpopular causes.   That may be true.  But since when do large law firms have an obligation to take on unpopular causes when they're not getting paid for it (The Globe article doesn't say one way or another, but I'm guessing that Catholic Charities is a pro bono client).  Personally, if it's true that Ropes caved to political pressure from students to drop Catholic Charities,  I think it's a  pretty wimpy decision.  But really, where's the harm?  There are thousands of unpopular causes out there, thousands of clients who can't find or afford a decent attorney to represent them in a capital murder case or an eviction proceeding.  When these clients are turned away by large firm pro bono programs (which they are, frequently), they suffer real harm. I'm guessing that Catholic Charities probably can afford to hire a small or midsized firm to handle its legal matters; it's hard to get too incensed that the charity won't be able to get legal service from Ropes & Gray.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on March 17, 2006 at 02:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

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