Most first-year associates at large firms worry about adapting to a new culture and meeting their billable-hour requirements. Although those were concerns for Corey Laplante ’13, he also worried about America’s vast justice gap.
Working at Skadden Arps in Los Angeles, Laplante heard about a local member-funded grant foundation and wondered if raising money for legal aid organizations could find traction within Big Law. Soon thereafter, The Associates Committee—which supports legal aid and impact litigation by nonprofits throughout the nation—was born.
“Nothing like that existed in Big Law … and I wasn’t sure we’d be able to raise much money,” Laplante says. “But I sensed that many of my fellow associates were hungry for more civic engagement.”
He conferred with then co-worker Cameron Mabrie ’12, who help build the initiative and began drafting incorporation documents. Laplante set a $1,000 contribution threshold and reached out to his Big Law network.
“So many friends and former classmates stepped up right away,” he recalls. “They became members and encouraged their colleagues to join, and some also joined our board of directors.”
The Associates Committee welcomed 75 members in just a few months. But after exhausting his personal connections, Laplante needed a new recruitment method. On a whim, he started messaging associates on LinkedIn.
“I figured it would be a dead end, and I worried we had reached our ceiling,” he says. “But three years later, we’ve now raised nearly $450,000 in grant funds.”
The committee accepts applications from any 501(c)(3) organization whose main purpose is providing legal aid. Priority goes to supporting early-stage nonprofits that use innovative approaches to tackle systemic legal problems.
Recent grants supported criminal defense and restorative justice services for at-risk youth, combated wealth-based discrimination, aided immigrant communities, and provided training, counseling, and legal representation for prisoners eligible for parole.
“Our main goal is to make this all sustainable,” says Laplante, now at the litigation boutique Wilkinson Walsh + Eskovitz. “We’re hoping some larger firms will team up with us and help spread the word among their current and future associates. The idea is to put something in place that will endure long after any of our current members are associates.”