We are a San Francisco Bay Area law firm, not just a firm with a San Francisco office. For generations, our attorneys have been deeply involved in, and engaged with, the life and the progress of our City and the greater Bay Area. Does this make us better lawyers? Does it help us to better serve our clients? Probably it does. Mostly, though, we think it makes us better human beings, which is pretty important too.
Coblentz received the 2013 “Outstanding Law Firm in Public Service Award” from the Justice & Diversity Center (JDC) of The Bar Association of San Francisco (BASF). We were the second to sign onto JDC’s Right to Civil Counsel Pilot Program, and in 2013, our lawyers volunteered on behalf of low-income tenants, consumers and taxpayers. In addition to our pro bono legal services work, Coblentz sponsored one of JDC’s Bay Area Minority Law Students Scholarships, a $30,000 three-year commitment, as well as hosted receptions introducing the scholarship recipients to their donors for the past few years.
In 2013, past pro bono committee chair Fred Fields was honored by the Bar Association of San Francisco with an “Award of Merit” for his lifetime participation in pro bono efforts, after receiving the Keta Taylor Colby Award from the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights in 2009 for recognition of his pro bono work and his outstanding commitment to those in need. Fred’s work included supervising 10 debt collection cases for the Lawyers’ Committee, six of which he handled directly, obtaining outstanding results. In February 2014 the JDC recognized Jeffry Bernstein as their volunteer of the month for his work with JDC’s Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) after volunteering with JDC since 2000, and representing or advising taxpayers on over 30 cases since 2009. The JDC also thanked Coblentz for our recent exceptional volunteer efforts on behalf of low income consumers: by mid-August 2013, led by Fred Fields, our firm had taken, and resolved, three full-scope representation collection defense cases.
We’re very proud to have also had our commitment to service honored by the California State Bar, which, in 2010, named us the Pro Bono Law Firm of the Year. We’re a signatory to the Pro Bono Institute’s Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®, and locally, we are committed to the Bar Association of San Francisco’s Pledge in Support of Pro Bono Service. Through that pledge, we proudly and enthusiastically fulfill our commitment to give pro bono legal services equal to 3% of our firm’s total billable hours per year. Coblentz attorneys are continually awarded as “Outstanding Volunteers in Public Service” from BASF’s Justice & Diversity Center, which honors the top 15% of VLSP’s volunteers in its Pro Bono Legal Services Program, Homeless Advocacy Project, and Diversity Educational Programs.
Our firm’s pro bono efforts are directed by an active pro bono committee made up of partners, associates, and staff who support and encourage pro bono efforts throughout all of the firm’s practices. Additionally, our attorneys are involved with many community organizations that provide legal services to the underserved, and individual attorneys have been recognized for their service contributions. In 2010, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights (LCCR) honored corporate partner Sara Finigan with the James T. Caleshu Award for her extraordinary pro bono work for the LCCR’s Legal Services for Entrepreneurs Program (LSE), for which she has volunteered over a decade. She has helped establish a variety of small businesses and has been critical in engaging other members of our firm to take on clients from the LSE program. In 2012, Sara was elected to the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights’ Board of Directors. The LCCR of San Francisco Bay Area advances, protects and promotes the rights of communities of color, immigrants and refugees – with a specific focus on low income communities and a long-standing commitment to African-Americans – by leveraging the power of the private bar to support direct service, and impact litigation and policy advocacy legal strategies. Coblentz supports Sara and the Board of the LCCR in its commitment to these principles of social justice by being a pro bono partner of the LCCR – contributing the firm’s time to provide legal services to the community.
Pro bono work is deeply rooted in the history and culture of Coblentz. Equal access to justice is fundamental to a fair and equitable society, and the responsibility to create access to justice for the under-represented has sustained our dedication to pro bono work for generations. Often those most in need of legal representation are the least able to afford it, which is why we have dedicated legal resources and tens of thousands of hours to a multitude of causes since our founding in 1890. Our focus on pro bono clients in San Francisco and the Bay Area allows our attorneys to have a direct impact on the lives of people in the areas in which they live and work.
In 2018, our attorneys helped to ensure equal access to justice for pro bono clients ranging from army veterans to victims of domestic violence to low-income tenants facing eviction, and more. We’re proud to share this snapshot of the work we’ve done in the community in the last year. We consider the work to balance the scales of justice our duty, but more importantly, at Coblentz, it is our privilege.
Coblentz is an active supporter of The Arc San Francisco, which provides job training, service, support, and advocacy for individuals with developmental disabilities; we employ two Arc clients in the firm’s Facilities Department. In 2007, the firm was honored with The Arc’s prestigious Partnership Award for our ongoing support.
Our staff and lawyers volunteer their time and lend support to community programs such as Head Start and Food From The Bar. We have also created a program called the Coblentz Classroom, through which we support a second-grade classroom in the Tenderloin neighborhood with tutoring and supplies.
We also work to increase the number of young people, especially of diverse backgrounds, who are interested in the legal profession. For over 20 years, Clifford Yin has coached, with a team of Coblentz attorneys, high school students from McAteer High and the San Francisco’s School of the Arts in a mock trial program sponsored by the Constitutional Rights Foundation.
Our attorneys are also active in the nonprofit community, serving on boards or actively involved in community groups.
Closer to home, our lawyers also serve on the boards or PTAs of their children’s schools, churches, and other civic institutions in the Bay Area.
Coblentz is proud to be affiliated with a number of community organizations, including: