Pro bono expertise fuels our work at the Lawyers’ Committee. Volunteers staff our walk-in legal clinics, represent our asylum seeking clients in immigration court, and commit hundreds of hours a year to our impact litigation. But the success of our advocacy campaigns requires a range of expertise that extends beyond attorneys and law firms.
For our April policy report, Towed into Debt: How Towing Practices in California Punish Poor People, our coalition teamed up with the economics consulting firm Analysis Group, Inc. to analyze towing data from cities across California and identify statewide trends with the hope of spurring legislative action.
“We were constantly hearing from people at our legal clinics who were hit with massive towing fees and couldn’t afford to get their car back,” says LCCR legal director Elisa Della-Piana. “But we needed the hard numbers to quantify what we were seeing on the ground.”
That’s where senior analyst Deepshekhar Gupta and analysts Alexandra Enrique and Claire Yin came in. Excited to “further economic justice in our community,” as Enrique put it, the teamcompiled and cross-referenced three years of data from 20 cities across the state.
For managing principal Aaron Yeater, the partnership was a reminder of how office culture can support pro bono initiatives.
“From early on, we decided it was important to encourage and support everyone in the firm who was interested in contributing their unique skills to good causes that otherwise might not have access to top-notch economic analytic resources,” Yeater says. “True to our firm’s entrepreneurial culture, most of the pro bono work bubbles up organically from all parts of the organization.”
Analysis Group’s number-crunching showed that over 200,000 vehicles are towed each year in California for poverty-related reasons like unpaid parking tickets, expired registration, and 72-hour ordinances. Even worse, vehicles snared by “poverty tows” are more likely to be sold at lien sales, depriving low-income drivers of their means of getting to work and oftentimes their only financial asset.
“The project for LCCR opened our eyes to important issues, and was a good reminder that there are many practical ways to better our community,” Enrique says. “It has been a rewarding experience to see our work with LCCR play out in a larger policy landscape.”
The report is already making waves. Inspired by the findings, Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco) introduced AB 516, which would end the practice of towing vehicles as a means of debt collection for unpaid parking tickets and expired registrations. It’s now in the California State Senate.
“Analysis Group’s work allows us to tell this story in a new wayand affect structural change,” Della-Piana says. “Now when policymakers ask about the scope of poverty tows, we don’t have to rely solely on client anecdotes.”
We thank Analysis Group for a meaningful and rewarding partnership!
If your company wants to explore creative ways to support civil rights and LCCR, contact Mark Conley-Buchsieb at email@example.com.