Law firm foundation makes kids lawyers for a day

January 6, 2013

Who: Francis Buono, partner.

Company: Willkie Farr & Gallagher.

Charitable giving highlights: The law firm has given more than $1.3 million to support youth education.

What defines the firm’s
philanthropy?

We created a foundation in 2004 that is managed by the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region. We wanted to focus on a particular mission. The mission we chose is to support nonprofits that provide educational opportunities to underserved youth in the greater Washington area.


Francis Buono, partner at Willkie Farr & Gallagher.

Foundations aren’t a popular giving model for law firms. What influenced you to chose that approach?

Back in 2005 ... there was a sense that we give individually, but wouldn’t it be great to find something that we could do together as an office. At that time, we had a partner retreat where we were invited to talk about giving back. Two of our partners had good relationships with the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region. They gave a presentation about how they could be a great support infrastructure for us if this is something we wanted to launch. It was very attractive to everyone.

How did you decide to focus on education?

We have folks here that range on the political, religious spectrum and who have their own individual initiatives that they support, but once we started talking about education and the underserved youth, there was 100 percent buy-in.

What are some of the activities the firm does with the nonprofits?

This past Columbus Day, we had 20 students come into Willkie. They had a tour of the office. We put together mock trials. They were plaintiffs, judges, defendants. With the help of the Willkie attorneys, helping them get up and make those arguments, they were lawyers for a day.

Which nonprofits have you chosen to be partners?

In 2005, we selected two of them, Higher Achievement and DC Scores. We had a relationship with them for five years. While we love them both, we wanted to turn to something new after five years. At that point, our advisory committee whittled it down to our current principle grantee, For Love of Children.

— Interview with Vanessa Small

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