As one of law’s most distinctive brands in Chicago, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP and Affiliates, have provided legal services to local, national and international clients since its opening in 1984. For the past two years, the firm has generously supported the Center for Student Development’s Annual Trunk Party for high school seniors. Below, Brian Duwe, Partner at Skadden and a Chicago Urban League Board member, shares with you how the law firm’s partnership with the League impacts the community, his advice on strategies for success for nonprofits and how the firm is using its 30th year anniversary as a platform to further engage the community with support and charitable giving.
Brian Duwe, Partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP and Affiliates
Can you speak about Skadden’s commitment to community service and its citizenship initiatives like the 30 Acts of Giving Project and the pro bono services that the firm provides?
Skadden has a long-standing commitment to providing pro bono legal services, financial support and volunteer time to those most in need within our community. From the firm’s beginning, Skadden attorneys have accepted challenging cases; participating in pro bono matters ranging from death penalty litigation to civil rights class actions - individual civil matters for low income, disabled and other people who are disadvantaged. Skadden also has represented hundreds of nonprofit organizations. And we have lent our time to countless efforts where we volunteered our time to serve the community.
The 30 Acts of Giving Project allowed us to channel these community-focused efforts to celebrate with Chicagoland our 30th anniversary year highlighting 30 distinct efforts to help others. Attorneys and staff- members alike participated in a range of activities touching on issues of hunger, poverty, education and access to justice. It was very rewarding and brought us all a bit closer. A synopsis of the Giving Project can be seen here https://vimeo.com/skaddenarps/skadden30actsofgiving
What does an ideal partnership with a nonprofit organization look like to Skadden?
The ideal partnership situation is one where everyone is benefiting in some way. We encourage our people to go out in the community and seek leadership positions on boards whose missions they feel strongly about. This is why I sit on the board at the Chicago Urban League. Skadden also partners with nonprofit legal aid organizations where we work together to improve overall access to justice for those clients who have the least amount of resources in our communities. Leveraging resources, expertise and passion are pretty close to the perfect partnership with any type of organization.
From your experience in the industry that you work in, what untapped strategies for success do you think a nonprofit organization can benefit from in order to serve underrepresented communities?
Two areas that most nonprofits can almost always improve on are evaluating their own effectiveness and raising funds necessary to support their mission. They are interdependent objectives. Nonprofits can learn a great deal from the corporate community about how to better measure the effectiveness of their programs and people in order to allocate resources optimally, and maximize the impact the organization has on the communities it serves. That kind of focus on objective measures of effectiveness also greatly enhances an organization’s ability to make its case to foundations and other funders who are increasingly savvy about metrics and return (in terms of impact) on their charitable contributions.