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VIP in Action Published October 27, 2021

A Volunteer Mentor’s Perspective on Pro Bono

Frannie Reilly, a VIP volunteer attorney, trainer, and mentor, contributed this post about her experience as a volunteer mentor and trainer for VIP’s Nonprofit Legal Assessment Clinics. Frannie is a Member with McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC.

Why is mentorship important for VIP volunteers?

The opportunity for an attorney to partner with a mentor through Philadelphia VIP provides access to the wealth of knowledge an attorney with years of experience in a particular area of law possesses, which subsequently allows those attorneys to have a greater impact on the Philadelphia nonprofit community. Legal professionals can turn to a mentor to answer questions and provide necessary guidance for attorneys to take on additional cases and assist nonprofits and the individuals that they serve in the Philadelphia community.

Through Philadelphia VIP, transactional attorneys are partnered with Philadelphia nonprofits to identify legal issues and work together to resolve those issues, enabling the organizations to continue to help and serve individuals throughout Philadelphia with their mission.  Many of these nonprofits do not have the resources to hire an attorney and rely on the knowledge and experience of Philadelphia VIP volunteer attorneys to help with legal issues that nonprofits frequently face.

What should transactional attorneys watch out for when representing nonprofit entities?

The main differences between for-profit and nonprofit organizations are the IRS’s requirements that individuals serving in the capacity of board members cannot receive a private financial benefit through their position and that the money nonprofits are raising is being done on a tax-exempt basis to benefit the public.

How did I get involved with VIP?

As a transactional attorney, I began volunteering with Philadelphia VIP my first year of practicing law and with each pro bono case, I met great clients who had a genuine interest in helping others.  I had the opportunity to serve as a trainer in the Nonprofit Legal Assessment Clinic as my legal skills developed in the nonprofit sector.  During the Clinic, I trained attorneys on issues frequently faced by nonprofits, which then allowed them to work with nonprofit organizations to identify issues and provide workable solutions. After 10 years working with Philadelphia VIP, I began volunteering as a mentor to work with other attorneys interested in helping nonprofits in addition to helping as a trainer.

Why do I mentor with VIP?

By being a mentor, I have the opportunity to meet and help other attorneys who share an interest in serving the Philadelphia nonprofit community and who recognize the importance and value that these nonprofits bring to the individuals being served by them.  My goal is to encourage attorneys to take a nonprofit case, work with me, and help the nonprofit to further its mission.  It is incredibly rewarding to see what these nonprofits are able to accomplish and the number of people that they are able to help with a little assistance from Philadelphia VIP volunteer attorneys.

 

Interested in volunteering or mentoring on a nonprofit or small business case? Contact Evy Cruz (icruz@phillyvip.org) to learn more about how you can help our Community Economic Development Initiative.