She knows some people call her a wishful thinker.
But Boston attorney Nancy Reiner believes many of her colleagues, despite their sometimes rapacious reputations, are idealists at heart.
“I might be a Pollyanna, but most lawyers I know went to law school because they wanted to have a positive effect on the world – or at least that’s what they started out thinking,” said Reiner, managing director of Major, Lindsey & Africa, a Boston-based legal recruiting firm.
That’s why she created Green Pro Bono, which finds free legal help for nonprofits and entrepreneurs working to fight climate change. Since it was founded in 2009, the all-volunteer organization, headquartered in Cambridge, has done legal match-making for 80 organizations, mostly in New England but also nationwide.
For example, a Foley Hoag financing lawyer assisted EGG-energy, a solar power company cofounded by an MIT grad; a Nixon Peabody corporate attorney helped the nonprofit Wakefield Climate Action Project; and a Goodwin Procter media lawyer helped Fosfo (also known as Citizens Market), a nonprofit incubated at Harvard’s Kennedy School that was developing an eco-friendly smartphone app.
Now Green Pro Bono is going international.
Reiner said the group frequently gets overseas requests for legal help but hasn’t had the resources to accommodate them. But now that most major law firms have an international presence, Green Pro Bono’s legal network is wide enough to assist non-US companies, too.
Some lawyers assume only specialists in environmental or energy law are needed, but that’s not the case, said Reiner, who has also headed the Boston office of Counsel On Call, a service that provides outside counsel to law firms and corporations, and was a longtime partner at Brown Rudnick, where she worked on the historic tobacco industry lawsuit that landed an $8.3 billion settlement for the state.
“The greatest need is corporate lawyers,” she said, for tasks as varied as processing legal documents, resolving employment disputes, and handling intellectual property issues. “It could be any area of the law.”
Plus, she said: “Most people feel really good about this work.”