Taft In The Community

At Taft, we believe that communities thrive when people are willing to commit their time, energy, and skills to making it happen. Since 1885, our professionals have been committed to public and political service to strengthen our neighborhoods, schools, and local charitable organizations. It is embedded in our past, it is prominent in our present, and it is expected in our future.

As demonstrated through the examples below, Taft attorneys and staff members actively participate in our communities through volunteer projects, pro bono services, financial support and sponsorships, and leadership on various boards of professional, educational, arts, religious, charitable, and civic organizations.

ArtsWave 
ArtsWave is the engine for arts in the Greater Cincinnati area. Through numerous gifts and donations, Taft supports impact-based grants given to ArtsWave’s 100+ arts projects and organizations, creating a wave of arts that connect the region and make it vibrant.

Amherst H Wilder Foundation
The firm and its employees annually donates school supplies and provides financial support to the Wilder School Supply Drive. Recently, annual Taft school supply donations have exceeded 4,500 items.

Geauga County Bluecoats Inc.
Cleveland partner Greg O’Brien serves on the board of this charitable foundation providing support for the families of safety forces in Ohio’s Geauga County who have lost their lives in the line of duty. The Bluecoats donate funds for safety and equipment needs, including digital fingerprint scanning machines, night cameras, criminal seminars, and Crime Stoppers programs.

Give Back Cincinnati
Taft employees and families participate in Give Back Cincinnati's annual Paint the Town event, engaging more than 1,000 volunteers to prep and paint houses in the chosen community. This important work serves as a catalyst to rejuvenate and lift up a community and its surrounding areas.

Greater Chicago Food Depository
Taft members volunteer throughout the year packing and sorting bulk items into individual and family portions for delivery to multiple distribution sites. As Chicago’s food bank, this nonprofit food distribution and training center is committed to ending hunger in the community, working through a network of 700 pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters to serve 170,000 meals for adults and children in Cook County every day.

Growing Places Indy
Taft is a supporter of Growing Places Indy, a non-profit that empowers people to cultivate individual, family, and community wellness through urban agriculture, access to fresh local food, and mind-body education. In particular, Taft sponsors the Indy Winter Farmers Market that runs from November through April and hosts over 75 local vendors, providing a venue for Indiana’s sustainably minded family farms and small batch food producers to connect to the community and grow their businesses.

The Hiram House
The firm sponsors the Hiram House Camp’s annual Pumpkin Festival, with proceeds benefiting the Campership Fund. The Hiram House enriches the lives of children through year-round outdoor education and recreation programs for youth, schools, churches, businesses, civic, and other organizations. Cleveland partner Kevin Barnes serves as president of Hiram House, and partner Phil Bautista is on the board.

House of Charity
Taft’s Minneapolis office supports House of Charity, an organization dedicated to helping those experiencing homelessness to develop healthy independence. Taft volunteers serve lunch to the many hungry and homeless people who come through their doors every day.

Just the Beginning – A Pipeline Program
Taft supports Just the Beginning Foundation in sponsoring and hosting a number of interactive programs on legal topics for minority high school students throughout the year, including their summer leadership institute. Partner Daniel Saeedi serves on the board of directors of the organization.

The Legal Aid Society of Columbus
Taft Columbus attorneys have worked closely on several key community projects with The Legal Aid Society of Columbus (LASC), a non-profit dedicated to promoting advocacy, education, and legal aid to ensure access to justice in civil matters for economically disadvantaged individuals and groups in the area. Taft Columbus helped pioneer and volunteers regularly with the organization’s Tenant Advocacy Project, which helps Franklin County residents facing eviction by providing pro bono legal aid in tenant-landlord disputes. Additionally, Taft Columbus attorneys participate in several LASC-sponsored brief advice clinics and LASC’s Volunteer Resource Center, where they provide counsel on matters including creditor-debtor disputes, bankruptcy, and more.

Make-A-Wish Foundation of Greater Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana
Taft has been a sponsor of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Greater Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana for several years, sponsoring the annual BIG Wish Gala and WZPL Request-A-Thon, volunteering with the organization, and co-hosting an annual kickball tournament with IMMI. These events help raise money to grant wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions.

Ralph Waldo Emerson School 58
Since 2011, Taft has contributed and pledged more than $1.2 million to Ralph Waldo Emerson School 58. With employee donations through the firm’s United Way of Central Indiana campaign, Taft supports an after school program and additional learning opportunities to support academic achievement. Taft employees are also involved with the students through tutoring, mentoring, and volunteering their time and talents. In addition, Taft sponsors life-changing microgrants through the Centers for Working Families (CWF) and pledges support to the Breaking Barriers Grant Program to help put Central Indiana’s most vulnerable neighbors on the path to financial stability.

Women Employed
Taft’s Chicago office supports Women Employed, an organization advocating for women in the workplace to effect policy change, expand access to educational opportunities, and fight for fair and inclusive workplaces so that all women, families, and communities thrive. Each year Taft participates in The Working Lunch, an event that brings together thousands of supporters. Partner Kris Kolky is a member of the Advisory Committee.

Women’s Wellness Fund
Taft's Dayton office proudly sponsors the annual Ribbon of Hope Luncheon, a fundraiser for women's wellness. More than 400 business and community leaders attend the event featuring a nationally known speaker who presents on breast cancer and women's health issues.

St. Herman House
Taft’s Cleveland office is proud to support St. Herman House, whose mission is to shelter and support homeless men on the path to well-being and independence and meet the basic needs of people in the Greater Cleveland community. Taft attorneys and staff have volunteered for a number of years to serve dinner at the shelter.

Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity
Taft attorneys and staff help build homes for Habitat for Humanity on an annual basis. This organization works to eliminate poverty housing from the Twin Cities and to make decent, affordable shelter for all people a matter of conscience. 

Taft attorneys are committed to providing legal services to low-income individuals, nonprofit and community organizations, and public interest causes, ranging from direct legal work for the indigent to extensive assistance to the courts. Because of our specialized skills and the role we play as part of the justice system, Taft attorneys have a unique opportunity to lead and serve on these issues. 

We believe it is our professional duty to provide pro bono services and to approach them with the same client-first mindset and service we bring to every other matter.

Each year, we devote thousands of hours to individuals, groups, and nonprofit organizations who otherwise are unable to afford legal services. Our pro bono areas of service have included litigation, estate planning, corporate, real estate, and labor, among others. This dedication to the public interest is inherent in Taft’s culture; our founding partners were heavily engaged in public and political service, and our current attorneys continue that legacy.

Pro bono work is encouraged throughout the firm, from new associates to senior partners with extensive experience. Taft associates, in particular, benefit in many ways from performing pro bono work, as it helps them develop as leaders in law and public service and exposes them to different areas of practice that they can carry forward in their careers. To support their efforts, Taft offers billable credit for up to 100 hours of pro bono work performed by associates and counsel.

Pro Bono Committee

Recently, Taft has initiated a new Pro Bono Committee that includes attorneys from all Taft offices and practice areas who are leaders in providing pro bono services in their communities. 

The committee’s objective is to connect attorneys in each of our offices with pro bono work that allows them to provide service to the community. In conjunction with the Diversity Committee, the committee will also look for opportunities for attorneys to do pro bono work that addresses systemic issues in our communities.

Accolades

Following are some examples of how we have been recognized for our pro bono efforts across our offices:

  • A team of firm attorneys, including attorneys Emily Collins, Kirsten Pagel, and Joey Balthazor received the 2019 Human Rights Volunteer Award for their pro bono service as part of the “Somali 92 team” at The Advocates for Human Rights Awards Dinner, an annual event honoring significant contributions to the human rights and to The Advocates' work.
  • Taft Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences Litigation partner Joseph M. Bennett-Paris, Ph.D. was selected as a “Pro Bono All-Star” by the Pro Bono Resource Center of the State Bar of Georgia for his commitment to pro bono work in 2018. He works with Georgia Lawyers for the Arts, an organization that provides legal assistance and educational programming to artists and arts organizations in the state. 
  • Nineteen attorneys were named to the Minnesota State Bar Association’s (MSBA) 2018 North Star Lawyers list for their commitment to providing pro bono services to those who could not otherwise afford counsel. To be named a North Star Lawyer, an attorney must be a member of the MSBA and provide at least 50 hours of pro bono service in the calendar year.
  • The Ramsey County Bar Association’s 2018 “Distinguished Humanitarian Award” was awarded to Sally Scoggin for her years of distinguished pro bono and community service.
  • Taft was named to the 2018 “Honor Roll” for the Chicago Bar Foundation’s Investing in Justice campaign, which benefits more than 30 local pro bono and legal aid organizations.
  • Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services (SMRLS) awarded the firm its “10-Year Social Justice Hero” at its 10th Annual Social Justice Uncorked celebration in 2017.
  • Children Law Center’s (CLC) 2017 “Distinguished Service Award” was awarded to the firm for its outstanding commitment to pro bono legal representation for Minnesota foster youth.
  • Taft was selected as the recipient of the "Outstanding Service by a Law Firm" award by the Columbus Bar Association, The Legal Aid Society of Columbus, and the Columbus Bar Foundation in 2017.
  • Taft was selected as the recipient of the first “Law Firm of the Year” award by the Pro Bono Partnership of Greater Cincinnati in 2016.
  • John Degnan was awarded Minnesota Lawyer’s 2015 “Attorney of the Year” Award for his pro bono work in securing VA medical benefits for a client's post-traumatic stress disorder from the Vietnam War.
  • Taft attorneys Tracy Betz and Zach Gordon were honored at the Southern Indiana District Court’s volunteer appreciation breakfast for providing pro bono help in 2015 to pro se litigants in either the Civil Trial Assistance Program or the Mediation Assistance Program.

Partnerships

We urge our attorneys to match a cause that inspires them with a legal need in the community. Some of the organizations and programs we have supported through our pro bono efforts or through which Taft attorneys have provided pro bono service are:

  • Central Ohio Association for Justice (COAJ)
  • Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights
  • Chicago Volunteer Legal Services
  • Children’s Law Center of Minnesota (CLC)
  • Cleveland Municipal School District 3Rs Program
  • Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children
  • Georgia Lawyers for the Arts
  • Habitat for Humanity of Minnesota
  • Heartland Pro Bono Council
  • HVAF of Indiana, Inc.
  • Interfaith Legal Clinic
  • Jackson Foundations
  • Lawyers for Justice
  • Legal Aid of Western Ohio and Advocates for Basic Legal Equality (LAWO/ABLE)
  • Legal Aid Society of Cleveland
  • Legal Aid Society of Columbus
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
  • National Immigrant Justice Center
  • Neighborhood Christian Legal Services
  • Pro Bono Partnership
  • Society of St. Vincent de Paul
  • Transgender Law Center
  • Victory Project
  • Volunteer Lawyers for the Poor

Direct Service

Our pro bono activity is substantially focused on direct legal service to the disadvantaged, including through these organizations:

  • The Advocates for Human Rights
    • The Advocates for Human Rights implements international human rights standards to promote civil society and to reinforce the rule of law. Taft’s lawyers do asylum and removal work for clients referred to the firm through The Advocates, as well as research projects on human rights and international law. ​
  • Children’s Law Center of Minnesota
    • CLC provides court-appointed legal representation to children who are wards of the state or have been removed from their homes because they are in need of protection. Taft’s lawyers represent foster children through CLC, and advocate for the legal rights and necessary services for these clients, particularly in the transition from foster care to independent living.
  • Federal Bar Association Pro Se Project
    • The Pro Se Project is a collaboration between the Minnesota District Court and the Minnesota Chapter of the Federal Bar Association to address the growing challenges presented by civil pro se litigants in the federal judicial system. Taft attorneys handle full-representation cases in federal court.
  • Illinois Supreme Court Volunteer Pro Bono Program for Criminal Appeals
    • This program, piloted by the Illinois Supreme Court in early 2020, helps reduce the backlog of criminal appeals in the Illinois court system. Pro bono  attorneys assist by substituting for Office of the State Appellate Defender in certain criminal appeals. Taft’s Chicago office was recognized by the Court for its commitment to this important program.
  • LegalCORPS
    • LegalCORPS provides free legal assistance in transactional matters to low-income entrepreneurs and innovators and small nonprofits in Minnesota through the services of volunteer business lawyers. Our attorneys volunteer at monthly advice clinics and provide pro bono full representation for clients referred to the firm by LegalCORPS.
  • Volunteer Lawyers Network (VLN)
    • The VLN Legal Access Point (LAP) clinic provides pro se individuals with direct, quick legal advice on a range of civil legal issues. Taft attorneys volunteer at several VLN LAP Clinics each month.
  • Naturalization Cases

Longtime residents of downtown Cincinnati, Taft expanded its presence with the Taft Center, an innovative, multi-functional reception space overlooking Fountain Square. Taft and its clients and other stakeholders can enjoy “front porch” city views as they partake in meetings, seminars, social events and community causes. In fact, the firm’s own involvement in civic and community organizations helped inspire the multi-purpose space.

Located on the second floor of the US Bank Tower, the 7,000-square-foot Taft Center serves as a meeting and conference site, as well as a reception space for networking events and mixers hosted by Taft clients and guests.

From Fountain Square, dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows offer illuminated views of the 1,200-square-foot “Living Room,” an expansive space equipped with wireless internet and movable seating. Beyond are private meeting rooms of varying sizes, fitted with high-tech electronics for international conferencing. A large lobby and 600-square-foot catering kitchen allow The Taft Center to accommodate guests with a variety of services.

If you are interested in learning more about the Taft Center, please contact the Taft Center Event Coordinator, Joe Loggia, at (513) 357-9356 or jloggia@taftlaw.com.