Pro bono service is extremely important to me. I have been volunteering with arts organizations since before I was an attorney. I think our communities as a whole are substantially improved when we provide representation and voices to our underserved segments of society, particularly non-profit organizations.
With respect to intellectual property law, I think it is important to foster entrepreneurship and invention through pro bono work. According to a September 2017 report released by the U.S. Small Business Administration, low-income areas have far fewer businesses than other areas in the U.S. However, entrepreneurship offers an alternative route to economic success and an increasingly promising pathway out of poverty, which benefits my community and our communities as a greater whole.
I have been volunteering with Dade Legal Aid since 2009 through its Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts program where we partner with the Arts & Business Council of Miami to offer legal seminars for attorneys, legal clinics for artists, one-on-one legal consultations, and informative brochures and printed materials on IP-related topics. My pro bono legal services include everything from registering trademarks and copyrights, responding to demand letters received, drafting agreements, and resolving litigation matters.
In 2010, I was appointed chair of the Intellectual Property committee of the Dade County Bar Association in Miami, and, during a bar retreat, the then-president of the bar association tasked each committee chair with helping to raise additional funding and volunteers for Dade Legal Aid. At the time, there was not an abundance of Dade Legal Aid clients seeking assistance with IP-related matters, so I launched the Patently Impossible Project, a fundraising event featuring a race to accurately assemble a patented invention while guests “bet” on their favorite team.
This past November, we hosted the Eighth Annual Patently Impossible Project, and we raised over $25,000 for Dade Legal Aid (and more than $150,000 since the first event). Teams of attorneys and legal professionals, law students, and other members of the business community raced to assemble a slingshot device that launched ping pong balls into a target, while several prominent federal court judges “judged” the competition. The teams are provided parts, tools and only the drawings (and instructions) in a patent.
As an IP attorney, I work with innovation and invention every day and I wanted an event that was reflective of our committee membership. I have been to a lot of fundraising and networking events and (even though I know I am biased) the Patently Impossible Project is the most fun.
Dade Legal Aid is committed to providing access to justice for all and the funds raised by the Patently Impossible Project enable the organization to do just that.