Growing up, there was a highway overpass near where I lived outside of Houston where you could look out and see a seemingly endless landscape of pristine coastal wetlands. You couldn’t help but notice the place crawling with birds, fish and other amazing wildlife you usually only see in documentaries. But if you walked to the other side of the overpass, it was humming with chemical plants as far as the eye could see. The sense of awe and gratitude toward nature and enrichment that these wild natural places give us, transforms, when you turn your head, into a mix of truly uncomfortable feelings. For me, these feelings can only begin to resolve once a commitment to make a positive difference sets in. This call to action is where my pro bono journey began.
I believe that all of the great challenges and inequities in our society are interconnected, and that all are exacerbated by a broken environment. As a startups and venture capital lawyer, I freely admit bias in also believing that our broken environment can be mended through novel technologies with the potential to scale. But I also recognize that solutions to our extremely complex global environmental problems will require a whole lot more.
This is why I’m so grateful for the opportunity to support the Sustainable Ocean Alliance (SOA), whose mission is to accelerate solutions, cultivate leaders and create community that will restore the ocean in our lifetime. Since we began our pro bono relationship, SOA has grown from a founder with an enormous dream to a global organization that hosts a successful ocean sustainability startup accelerator program, a global microgrant program as well as a rapidly growing movement of thousands of ocean leaders working to address the threats facing our ocean in ways that technology alone cannot.
Through our pro bono engagement, I’ve had the chance to advise SOA with regard to a broad range of legal matters, including investments and grant making activities, stakeholder relations, corporate governance, expanding the organization, operationalizing advice from non-profit counsel, and even growth strategies. Representing SOA and becoming a part of their passionate and energized community gives me the feeling that I’m following through with my call to action from the highway overpass of my childhood and refuels me to keep going.
Interestingly, I’ve also noticed a chain reaction among colleagues who collaborate with me on SOA’s matters. The inherent meaning and positivity in this pro bono work brings out the best in each of us and facilitates a virtuous cycle of more meaningful and genuine interactions among the Goodwin team. It is a pretty incredible and rare reward for legal work.
As my wisest football coach once screamed at me, “It doesn’t count unless you bring someone else with you.” So, if this post inspires others to pursue pro bono matters that connect with their own personal values, that’s the goal, and please feel free to reach out to me if you’d like to get involved with SOA.