Grant writing is a skill for all lawyers. Every lawyer should be adept at this particular kind of persuasive writing for both enlightened self-interest, and for the public good that grants can support.
Whether you work in public, private, or corporate practice or in academia, you will have a pro bono or community service obligation, and your grant-writing skills may be key to having your group achieve its goals. You might also have a job with grant-writing as a key skill. Finally, your pro bono activity can be an important element in your professional success and personal satisfaction with your work.
Grant-writing is a type of persuasive writing with additional obligations.
You will need to:
- understand the funder and its goals (hunger, homelessness, world peace),
- understand your client organization’s goals (must be in line with the funder’s mission),
- follow the rules precisely (answer all the questions, provide all of the requested information, submit on time, and in the required format), and
- be prepared to make an oral presentation (sometimes).
You may need to call the funder with your questions (grant officers welcome your calls: they want to help). You will need to make sure that your organization follows the rules of the grant with obsessive precision.
Sounds like work for a lawyer, doesn’t it?
In academia, service is one of the “three legs of tenure.” In private practice, one of the parts of the paths to partnership is community service. Some lawyers get away with sitting silently on Boards, doing an occasional uncontested pro bono divorce, or writing a big check, but many lawyers role up their sleeves and work actively with public interest organizations that live or die by grants. Lawyers who can craft meaningful, elegant, fact-intensive, and persuasive grant applications are invaluable. Additionally, lawyers can keep others on the board from mucking up this sophisticated fund raising endeavor.
An increasing number of corporate legal departments are taking their lawyers’ pro bono obligations seriously. With grant-writing skills in your skills’ tool box, you may be uniquely positioned to help your employers’ designated agency achieve its goals.
The development process grows more competitive each day. Federal, state, and local funding sources are drying up, and private funding for public interest organizations shrinks daily. All parts of fundraising require the heightened level of persuasiveness, creativity, and attention to detail that lawyers bring to their work. Grant-writing, both useful and necessary, will give you a chance to shine.
In addition to the service obligation which is one of the “three legs of tenure,” grant-writing is a key skill for academics. Long before language describing a law firm partner’s life was boiled down to “you eat what you kill,” much of academic success was just that simple: no grants, no research, no job.