Winston & Strawn



Pro Bono Rank Firm
(Am Law 200 Rank)
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Winston & Strawn (34)


Winston & Strawn partner Joseph Karp, a transactional lawyer in the firm's energy group, admits that he often has trouble finding a pro bono client who can utilize his skill set. So when San Francisco-based Karp signed on to assist nonprofit GRID Alternatives with its proposal to oversee a The Am Law Pro Bono 100California solar energy program for low-income families, "it was a perfect fit," he says.

Thanks in part to Winston & Strawn's 680 hours of pro bono counsel, GRID (Generating Renewable Ideas for Development) Alternatives won a request for proposal process in July 2008 and became the administrator and installation provider for SASH—Single-family Affordable Solar Homes—a state program that seeks to provide low-income families with solar energy systems. The program, sponsored by California's Public Utility Commission, is part of the larger California Solar Initiative, a $3.3 billion, ten-year plan aimed at establishing a sustainable solar industry and lowering the cost of energy for state residents. In addition to assisting GRID Alternatives with its RFP submission, Winston & Strawn helped the organization file pleadings with the utility commission to shape the SASH program, and advised GRID Alternatives in contract and subcontract negotiations once the nonprofit had assumed the role of administrator and installation provider.

Much like nonprofit housing developer Habitat for Humanity, GRID Alternatives uses a workforce of community members and the homeowners themselves to set up the solar units, a method that lowers overall installation costs. "GRID Alternatives will achieve the maximum benefit by using volunteers and sweat equity," Karp says. "GRID is nimble—it doesn't have the same overhead as utilities, and it's a not-for-profit. There's no mark-up, so the program's money will be spread a little wider."

The $108 million allotted to SASH accounts for just five percent of the total budget for the larger California Solar Initiative. But because of GRID Alternatives's low installation costs, the organization projects that by 2016 the $108 million will outfit as many as 8,000 low-income households with solar energy systems, a significant step toward the "one million solar roofs" that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger envisioned for California when he approved the initiative in 2006.

—Claire Zillman | July 1, 2009

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