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. This informs and shapes our practice every day, and probably helps make us better lawyers. Mostly, though, we think it makes us better human beings, which is pretty important too.
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 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.
Coblentz was a founding 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. For the past twenty years, through these pledges, we proudly and enthusiastically fulfill our commitment to give pro bono legal services equal to three percent of our firm’s total billable hours per year.
Our 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.
Coblentz’s dedication to pro bono work has been recognized by multiple organizations. In 2021, Coblentz received the Pro Bono Champion Award from Equal Rights Advocates (ERA), which advocates for gender and social justice in workplaces and schools to protect and advance rights and opportunities for women, girls, and people of all gender identities across the country.
In 2017, Coblentz received the Keta Taylor Colby Award for pro bono service from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area (LCCR). Coblentz received the award because it excelled in its pro bono representation of low-income and marginalized individuals. Our partner Fred Fields received the same award in 2009.
In 2014, the Justice & Diversity Center (JDC) of The Bar Association of San Francisco (BASF) recognized Jeffry Bernstein as the volunteer of the month for his work with JDC’s Low Income Taxpayer Clinic after volunteering with JDC since 2000 and representing or advising low-income taxpayers on over 30 cases since 2009. 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. In 2010, the 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 2013, the JDC recognized Coblentz with its “Outstanding Law Firm in Public Service Award.” Our attorneys are also continually awarded as “Outstanding Volunteers in Public Service” from the JDC, which honors the top 15% of volunteers in its Pro Bono Legal Services Program, Homeless Advocacy Project, and Diversity Educational Programs.
In 2020, our attorneys helped to ensure equal access to justice for pro bono clients ranging from the ACLU to victims of discrimination to DACA recipients, 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.
In addition to our pro bono legal services work, Coblentz sponsors one of JDC’s Bay Area Minority Law Student Scholarships, a $30,000 three-year commitment. We have hosted receptions introducing the scholarship recipients to their donors for the past several years.
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.
Our attorneys help lead and direct local pro bono organizations. In 2012, Sara Finigan was elected to the LCCR board of directors, and Lindsay Gehman joined JDC’s board of directors in 2019. We 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. Our staff and lawyers often volunteer their time and lend support to community programs such as Head Start and Food From The Bar.
We also work to increase the number of young people, especially of diverse backgrounds, who are interested in the legal profession. For over 25 years, Clifford Yin, along with a team of Coblentz attorneys, has coached high school students in a mock trial program sponsored by the Constitutional Rights Foundation.
Coblentz is proud to be affiliated with a number of community organizations, including