This week, I attended another training at the law firm of Alston & Bird. This week, however, the training was focused on how attorneys should approach pro bono work and working with pro bono organizations like GAIN. Cheryl Naja, Alston & Bird’s Director of Pro Bono and Community Service and a board member of GAIN, organized the training session in a very creative and fun way: by creating a game show called “Will You Be My Pro Bono Match?” that resembled a dating game show and the vintage board game “Mystery Date.” Along with representatives from Atlanta Legal Aid and Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta, GAIN’s Executive Director, Monica Khant, represented GAIN as a pro bono organization looking for their perfect volunteer-attorney match. Each representative was presented with three Alston & Bird attorney contestants who they grilled to determine if they knew how to approach working with their organization and how to overcome the challenges of pro bono work. For example, Monica asked her three contestants how they would overcome language barriers at a client meeting, and what they would do if they were suddenly swamped with tasks for their regular job with Alston & Bird that made it difficult to work on their pro bono project with GAIN.
Executive Director of GAIN, Monica Khant, Trying to Find Her Perfect Pro Bono Match
Being an excellent sport, one of the Alston & Bird attorneys, Contestant One, played the example of what not to do in these situations. He said he would just send a client home if he did not have an interpreter for the meeting or if it was a language he knew a little, try to muddle through. This was not a good answer because it is often difficult for a client to make it all the way to Midtown, Atlanta, so it is better to try to problem-solve by calling GAIN for help, arranging an interpreter before a meeting, or trying to find someone on Alston & Bird’s staff with that language skill. Trying to muddle through is also not a great idea because the legal terms can be complicated to explain without fluent language skills and the client might be too embarrassed to admit he or she does not understand you. Contestant One also said that if he became overwhelmed with his regular work, he would just tell his pro bono client that their case would have to wait, and screen their phone calls to avoid taking up his time with them. This is also a terrible answer because pro bono clients are still clients and deserving as much time, attention, and respect as a regular clients. If an attorney is having difficulties keeping up with their case load and a pro bono client’s case, he or she should ask for help from GAIN, the Alston & Bird pro bono team, or his/her own legal division, or try to manage and prioritize his or her time so as to fulfill all his or her commitments.
Announcing the Three Pro Bono Match Contestants for GAIN
Contestants Two and Three did a much better job at problem-solving in these challenging hypothetical situations. It made Monica’s job of choosing her Pro Bono Match so difficult that she polled the audience to pick her winner. After a vote by round of applause, Contestant Three was chosen as GAIN’s Pro Bono Match due to her great problem-solving answers to the hypotheticals and her enthusiasm for GAIN as an organization. Although this was a training tool, GAIN does hope that the training has drummed up actual interest for Alston & Bird attorneys like Contestants Two and Three to volunteer their time and legal services to GAIN clients.
Contestant Three's Passionate Answer
After another exciting and informative week at GAIN, I took some time to explore. One of the fun places I found was the Indian restaurant, Chai Pani. I learned that Chai Pani means “tea and water,” but it also slang in India for going out for a cup of tea, a bite to eat, or a snack. The restaurant’s mission is to bring Indian street food to their patrons in Georgia and their menu features a variety of “chaats,” Indian street snacks and “thalis” traditional Indian family meals. I was pretty hungry and also hoping for some leftovers for the next day, so I chose a Thali. My Thali included vindaloo (a savory lamb dish), daal (a lentil dish), a roti (the Indian version of a tortilla), a papadum (a thin, crisp disc shaped-cracker flavored with cumin seeds that reminded me of a tostada shell), basmati rice, raita (a yogurt sauce), sabji (cauliflower and vegetable curry dish), and a laddu (a dessert or sweet). It was delicious! Later, I found out that GAIN is hoping to host a fund raiser in the fall at Chai Pani. While I’m sad I will not be in Atlanta at that time, I know it will be a huge success!
Thali at Chai Pani