Nonprofit Law Firms Benefit Disenchanted Attorneys, ‘In-Between’ Clients

This article published originally on on Sept. 7, 2016.

Lee DiFilippo earned hefty paychecks for 13 years as a corporate transactional attorney in Big Law and later as in-house counsel to a couple of corporations.

But it wasn’t enough.

“I was pushing paper for corporate America. I was paid a lot of money. But I never felt I was doing anything that benefited anyone,” DiFilippo said.

In 2012, she found her true calling when she helped a poor woman get a divorce from an abusive husband. “I never knew there was such a need. I was always in an ivory tower in big high rises, working for firms, and I was shielded from it.”

Following her passion and joining a growing movement across the country, DiFilippo now runs a nonprofit law firm in Austin—DiFilippo Holistic Law Center—to serve people who make too much money to qualify for legal aid, but too little to afford a traditional lawyer. Previously, DiFilippo worked at Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton and then at Reed Smith, before going-in-house at Textron Systems and Bell Helicopter.

The growing popularity of nonprofit law firms aimed to help the “in-between” economic demographic stems, in large part, from a 2014 article in The Atlantic, which profiled Shantelle Argyle’s organization, Open Legal Services, in Salt Lake City. Argyle, co-founder and executive director of Open Legal Services, said that since then, people in 35 states have called her, and she’s consulted with two dozen to help them create nonprofits.

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