Providing pro bono services is an important part of life at Tonkon Torp and one of the firm's core values. In keeping with ABA standards, we encourage our lawyers to spend at least 50 hours each year on pro bono matters which are provided to persons of limited means, or to matters which are designed primarily to address the needs of persons of limited means. In practice, our attorneys donate thousands of hours annually in legal services and to community service activities.
We encourage our lawyers to follow their own interests in choosing pro bono activities. The firm credits up to 50 hours per associate per year of approved pro bono legal services toward the annual billable hour goal. Partners are expected to fulfill the pro bono commitment in addition to meeting their annual billable hour goal.
Several Tonkon Torp lawyers were involved in constitutional litigation concerning the proposed suspension of appointments of indigent defense counsel in about 27,000 cases. This litigation has gone to the Oregon Supreme Court, the Oregon Federal District Court and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Our substantial involvement in this important case was recognized by the Multnomah Bar Association, which awarded Tonkon Torp, and other firms involved in the case, its annual Pro Bono Award of the year.
In addition to the individual pro bono services our attorneys provide to an array of organizations in the Portland metro area and beyond, the firm is deeply engaged in pro bono activities in support of two organizations.
Southeast Legal Clinic
Since the early 1990s, Tonkon Torp has had an ongoing relationship with the Southeast Legal Clinic administered by the Oregon Law Center. The Clinic engages lawyers in private practice to help low income clients access the justice system on a wide range of civil legal issues – especially housing, consumer and employment issues.
Approximately one-third of Tonkon Torp attorneys have participated in the Southeast Legal Clinic pro bono program, helping hundreds of low income clients over two decades. In any given year, nine to 12 Tonkon Torp lawyers agree to consult with three to four clients each and provide assistance that may range from brief advice to litigation.
In addition to the pro bono services of our lawyers, the firm also provides a coordinator to be the liaison with the Oregon Law Center and schedule consultations with our attorneys and the Clinic’s prospective clients. According to the Southeast Legal Clinic, Tonkon Torp’s willingness to provide a full range of legal assistance has made a tremendous difference in the lives of low income persons served by the program.”
Changing Lives Forever
Oregon is one of seven states in the nation that places juveniles adjudicated for a felony sex crime on the sex offender registry for life. Given the stigma and difficulty in obtaining employment or housing when someone is labeled a sex offender, critics of lifetime registration believe that permanent placement on the list is overly harsh punishment for juvenile offenders who have been rehabilitated and pose no threat to the public.
In 2011, Tonkon Torp partners Gwen Griffith and Vicki Ballou created a model for providing pro bono legal services to juvenile offenders who are deemed good candidates for removal from the lifetime listing but who can’t afford a lawyer to help them navigate the complex process. Called "Changing Lives Forever” (CLiF), the project is a collaboration with the region’s premier juvenile law public interest law firm, Youth, Rights & Justice (YRJ). By leveraging the juvenile law expertise of YRJ, the project makes it possible for attorneys from any areas of practice to take on a CLiF client knowing there is a wealth of information and support that will allow them to represent their CLiF clients with confidence.
More than two dozen Tonkon Torp attorneys and a number of lawyers at other firms around the state are providing legal representation to help deserving young people with the registration relief process.