PH Balance: A look at the Paul Hastings hardship fund

In April Am Law top 50 law firm Paul Hastings launched a hardship fund so support employees financially during the COVID-19 pandemic. At such a challenging time, these types of efforts are worth celebrating. We asked managing director for innovation and knowledge, Nicola Shaver, to tell us how the fund arose and how it works.

Given how challenging our “new normal” is for everyone in our industry, I am grateful that Paul Hastings is helping its people navigate this difficult time together. Over the past month, the firm has announced a number of initiatives geared toward supporting employees during the COVID-19 crisis, most notably its COVID-19 Fund.

On April 1st, the firm announced the launch of a special fund for employees, as well as immediate family members and dependents, who are experiencing financial hardships from direct or indirect impacts of COVID-19.

The concept of the fund arose from firm leadership reaching out to the chairs of the firm’s PH Balanced Committee, the initiative that supports the firm’s work/life balance, mental health, family topics and wellness programs. They wanted to discuss the most pressing issues facing our PH colleagues. The team identified that many of our PH colleagues were facing dire economic situations due to the impact of the pandemic, which spurred the creation of the Paul Hastings COVID-19 Fund.

“In the midst of providing support for our clients and adjusting to operating on a completely remote platform, I was so pleased when our managing partners and chairman wanted to discuss launching an initiative through PH Balanced to provide meaningful and practical support to our own people,” says Lisa Chaney, one of three partners who chair the PH Balanced Committee.

Luke McDougall, who is also a PH Balanced Committee chair, agrees. “It was important to us and to firm leadership that our people felt supported at this difficult time and that being part of Paul Hastings is distinct from just any place to work,” he says.

Contributions have been made by many of the firm’s partners, attorneys and professional staff to the fund, which distributes financial grants to those who are in serious need of financial assistance.

“We wanted the impact of the fund to be broad,” adds Nathaniel Edmonds, the third PH Balanced Committee co-chair. “We realized that many employees are facing unexpected financial burdens at this time, such as from the loss of a family member’s income, increased utility bills, or suddenly having college-age students back at home.”

No priority is given on the basis of office, position or seniority. Instead, applications are prioritized on the basis of need, as determined by the committee. The firm has also committed to matching the donations of other PH colleagues who want to contribute to the fund.

This initiative also provided a unique and meaningful way to mark Administrative Professionals’ Week. Rather than giving small gifts to the professional staff as tokens of appreciation, the firm made an additional contribution to the Paul Hastings COVID-19 Fund to express support for administrative team members who are impacted by the crisis.

However, the fund is not the only way Paul Hastings has rallied around its employees during this time. The firm has also made it possible for employees to easily purchase technology equipment for use at home that is compatible with firm systems, and is reimbursing employees for these purchases. In addition, on April 16 the firm announced that it would provide a monthly $100 work-from-home stipend to all employees. The stipend is retroactive to March 9, and serves to cover costs related to internet use, printing equipment/supplies, other basic office supplies, increased utilities, and other expenses our people may incur while working from home.

“We realize these times are unprecedented and the impacts of COVID-19 are creating a dramatic impact on our lives and the lives of those we love,” says Chaney. “As a firm, we believe we are better off facing these unprecedented circumstances together.”

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