Goodwin Insights October 26, 2021

Pro Bono Prose: Brian W. Cook

Read the pro bono story below from Brian W. Cook, an associate in the firm's Complex Litigation & Dispute Resolution practice, and then click on the audio to hear Brian further reflect on the impact of pro bono representation and what motivates him to serve clients.

COVID-19 crushed early childhood education providers – open one day and ordered shut the next.  When they could reopen months later, they had to worry about a whole host of new liabilities. Goodwin’s lawyers stood ready to help, drafting an entire raft of new contract provisions to help them navigate a new future. Providers also faced spurned landlords, and families demanded their money returned while throwing around phrases like “force majeure” and “frustration of purpose.” These providers needed a litigator. And these representations would turn out to be some of the most rewarding of my career.

One family, after demanding the return of a $2,000 deposit for over a year, sued their children’s former school in small claims court. The school reached out to Goodwin for help. The money was important – not-for-profits usually are not flush with cash – but not everything.  The bigger issues were fairness and reputation; they did not want to harm a struggling family and they did not want that family to attack on social media.  

I can proudly say we found a resolution that pleased all parties. After a lengthy morning of listening to venting about the unfairness of a worthless deposit (and rebutting each point), we found our moment and agreed to refund less than 40% of the deposit in exchange for a non-disparagement clause – which I drafted on the spot. The school’s Director found herself “laughing with JOY and relief,” which is not exactly a typical reaction even in our most successful billable disputes. And one of the center’s board members (a lawyer herself) pointed out that I “will always have the story of how you papered a settlement negotiation in under two minutes!”  

There is simply no better feeling than leveraging the skills I have developed in high-dollar disputes for a client where every dollar counts. Pro bono provides that opportunity every time.

Brian Cook