President Donald Trump has inspired a new online dating service—between lawyers opposed to him seeking pro-bono work and opposition non-profits in need of help.
We the Action, launching Friday, will be an online portal to connect lawyers with legal work waiting to be done, from reviewing leases and contracts to filing Social Security claims to potentially heading to court in immigration cases. Non-profits will be able to post the services they need, and search through online profiles created by attorneys detailing expertise and availability.
Several connections have been made already by the 501c4, funded and incubated by the California-based Emerson Collective, the organization founded and led by Laurene Powell Jobs.
“After the election and as Trump was coming, there was this huge outpouring of lawyers who just wanted to know what they could do,” said Marc Elias, the D.C. Democratic elections lawyer who is serving as We the Action’s board chairman. “We ought to be able to match this great demand for legal services.”
Democratic operative Addisu Demisse and Emerson Collective immigration expert Marshall Fitz make up the rest of the board.
We the Action is in part a response to the explosion of new groups formed in the wake of Trump’s election, many of which are low on funding and resources.
“Non-profits are on the frontline, and there are more and more of them every day. This is a way to connect lawyers that want to help with organizations that need help,” said Sarah Baker, who worked in the White House counsel’s office under President Barack Obama and will be We the Action’s executive director.
The attorney profile asks which states they are member of the bar in for matters that require it, but the website will be able to connect lawyers and non-profits no matter the distance. And the hope is to provide an avenue for attorneys who want to get around firms’ sometimes ponderous and complicated pro bono policies.
The rush of lawyers to the airports in the wake of Trump’s first travel ban drove home the point: hundreds arrived, few had any relevant immigration law expertise and no one was providing any direction.
“There wasn’t any place for a progressive lawyer who simply wanted to make a difference,” Elias said.
Eleven larger organizations are forming the backbone of support and outreach: Access Democracy, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Equality New York, the International Refugee Assistance Program, the Latin American Coalition, Let America Vote, NARAL Pro Choice America, the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and Hawaiian Islands and Voto Latino.
"There is great need for legal support and so many skilled lawyers who want to participate in the pursuit of equality and justice,” said Gabriel Blau of Equality New York, “but until now, there hasn’t been a sufficiently focused and robust tool to make that match."