Richard Bobholz is the Senior Managing Attorney at Law++, a law firm whose mission is to make the legal system easier, enact positive change in its community, and continually improve how it operates and the effect they have on their clients’ lives and in their community. Richard and Law++ have won multiple awards for charitable giving – Richard has created a pro bono program where he asks recipients of his pro bono services to pay their “debt” by volunteering at local 501(c)(3) organizations. Richard also dedicates a large amount of his time to giving back through pro bono work.
This year, Law++ received the Outstanding Law Firm Pro Bono Service award for Small & Medium Law Firms from the North Carolina Bar Association in recognition of their creative approach to providing pro bono services and participation.
What initially inspired you to make a difference and what career path did you follow?
My career was inspired by Joel Tuoriniemi, one of my undergraduate professors. He taught law at the Engineering school. He was an assistant professor of law, so he was not tenured, yet he truly loved what he did. He was even rated the 16th best professor in the nation by USA today, on every single measure. Because of this, he was getting job offers across the country to work at other colleges. He was honestly the happiest and most satisfied person I’ve ever met. I fell in love with the law during the first class I had with him, and I ended up taking three more of his classes throughout my time at Michigan Technological University.
My experience at Camp Boggy Creek was what made me choose to make a difference. I had a gap between studying abroad and my next semester in school, so I decided to work as a summer camp counselor. I oversaw a cabin full of boys during heart week and a cabin full of girls during epilepsy week. I fell in love with everything about it. It’s a camp for kids, but honestly, it’s a more rewarding experience for the counselors. That summer was the first time I started doing good with any sort of agency and to the level of impactfulness.
From there, I started to volunteer.
In the legal field, I started getting to know other like-minded lawyers. There is a disconnect between the industry and the clients we serve. We decided to explore using flat-rate pricing to establish trust and remove uncertainty for the people and organizations we serve. We also strive to act as an example for other attorneys. None of us want to be the attorney that tries to bully the other party. It is a policy to use the law, facts, and respectful argument opposed to being a bully towards an opposing party.
Tell me a bit about how Law++ is uniquely helping make a positive impact?
As I already mentioned, the primary method is leading by example.
“I think all small businesses should incorporate some form of giving back into their business models. There are studies that show that employees who volunteer are more invested in their work. It leads to relationships at a deeper level.”
I’m also always trying to be innovative in how I give back. At Law++ we’ve created an exciting program that we’re calling Pro Bono Plus.
One part of the program is for people who are low income or low wealth. We offer them a sliding scale of services and they only pay a portion of my hourly rate.
There is also a program for nonprofits. We allow any nonprofit to convert up to 75% of their bill to be paid by them volunteering at local charities. This program was created so that nonprofits can get quality legal services, while keeping more money for their mission, and forcing them to better themselves through their interactions with other charities in the area.
Every couple of months I also put a new product on my website that can be paid for through volunteerism. This particular product isn’t limited to people within a certain income bracket or restricted to just nonprofits. Warren Buffet could walk in and say, ‘I want a letter of intent,’ and he would pay by volunteering the two hours for it.
What are the biggest obstacles you’ve had to overcome thus far?
Starting a business is hard, in general. Everyone goes through a lot of challenges. One industry-specific challenge is being young. Looking young is tough. I used to wear suits to appear older, but I finally decided to give that up and embrace looking as young as possible. Now, I suspect people come in with low expectations, and leave with an opposite impression after I’ve shown them my knowledge.
Another challenge is pushback by attorneys. Law++ has been reported to the bar twice. Once, because we ran a Groupon offer. Someone impersonated the bar and sent us a threatening email. We were terrified until I asked the bar about it. Fortunately, there was a ruling that said that Groupon was allowed, and they agreed with our assessment that we are allowed to offer Groupon promotions.. The second time we were reported was because we publish our prices online and someone didn’t like that. If those kinds of attorneys don’t like me, I feel it’s a signal that I’m doing something right.
The last major challenge is that I still have $300,000 in student debt. Thanks to income-based payment, it’s not crippling, but the balance has gone up because of interest.
What advice do you have for people that want to change the world or pursue their passion?
The first is to surround yourself with good people. It’s cliché, but it’s also very important.
The advice I like to live by is to think about how you want to change the world as an investment. What can you do today, tomorrow, and over the next 5 years that will lead to a major change over time? You can make a big change in aggregate by taking small steps over time that add up in a big way.
To learn more about Richard, be sure to visit the Law++ website.