Kansas City Business Journal Highlights SLS Pro Bono Partnership With Kansas City Neighborhood
The Kansas City Business Journal recently profiled the firm’s pro bono efforts in Kansas City’s Marlborough neighborhoods. The firm provides legal and strategic advice to a coalition of five neighborhoods in southeastern Kansas City. The communities have a very diverse population, both economically and racially, with an abundance of foreclosures, vacant lots and poorly maintained homes.
The firm provides free legal services in the neighborhoods and helped organize the community groups in to a 501c(3) nonprofit corporation. Partner Stephen Chinn manages the program for the firm and attends each monthly Marlborough Community Coalition meeting and Board committee meetings.
The relationship between Stinson Leonard Street and the neighborhood goes deeper than most pro bono arrangements. Rather than working on a case-by-case basis, the firm contributes pro bono hours working on a wide array of legal needs of the entire neighborhood. Associates can apply up to 100 hours working on Marlborough projects toward their annual billing requirements. The work is invaluable training experience for firm’s younger lawyers, Chinn said. It prepares them to work on a variety of legal issues and fine tune their client communications skills In some instances, it offers new associates in court litigation experience they may not otherwise get so early in their career.
Marlborough neighborhood has fallen on hard times through the years, but there is reason for optimism looking into the future. In a few short years the group has some major accomplishments. With the aid of Stinson Leonard Street and Legal Aid of Western Missouri attorneys, many homes have been sold out of foreclosure and are now occupied by new home owners , the bus line has been extended to help serve the many residents who do not own cars. The group was able to also attract a new grocery store in an area that was once a "food desert" , a health clinic and an environmentally sensitive storm water management and storm and waste water sewer separation project as part of the economic development efforts. A neighborhood strategic action plan has been completed and a second part of the study, which will be a much needed zoning and land use analysis, is set to begin soon.
Gregg Lombardi, the executive director of the Legal Aid of Western Missouri, lauded the work the firm is doing through the Marlborough pro bono project.
“We could take all of the top 20 law firms and partner them up with neighborhoods, but it is major commitment. It takes a ton of time, and you really have to have somebody who is willing to build the relationship,” he said.