The PBEye

Pro Bono As We See It
November 26, 2014

Thanks & Giving

veggiesTomorrow is Thanksgiving and as we prepare to join with family and friends for a festive meal, this holiday season of gratitude and generosity of spirit has us thinking about the less fortunate among us and pro bono efforts designed to fight hunger and increase the availability of nutritious and affordable food.

As we’ve previously reported, there are a variety of ways in which pro bono attorneys from all practice backgrounds can work to increase access to healthy food. Opportunities for involvement include providing counsel to eligible nonprofit organizations, helping low-income individuals navigate the application process for public benefits, producing research and model legislation to improve access to and the administration of public benefits, conducting impact litigation, and more.

While numerous inspiring initiatives to improve the availability of affordable and healthy food are taking place around the country, The PBEye recently learned of an innovative pro bono project that seeks to bolster the New England local food system through the provision of pro bono legal assistance. Conservation Law Foundation’s Legal Services Food Hub, which is part of its Farm and Food Initiative, provides free legal services to income-eligible farmers, food entrepreneurs, and nonprofit organizations and community groups that support a healthy and sustainable food system. The eligibility criteria, modeled after the USDA’s “Limited Resource Farmer” definition, are designed to capture low-income farmers and food entrepreneurs and small- to medium-scale farms and businesses. The Legal Services Food Hub works with a network of volunteers, including several Member Firms and Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® Signatories, to provide a range of transactional assistance to eligible clients. For example, attorneys from Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr*† offered pro bono guidance on structuring an equity finance agreement to two young entrepreneurs, who are starting a food truck business that will serve healthy meals made with local ingredients in low-income Boston neighborhoods.

As we continue to pay greater attention to food access, those pursuing pro bono work in this field have the chance to transform communities and lives. To learn more about impactful pro bono projects aimed at fighting hunger and promoting the availability of healthy food, check out Pro Bono Food for Thought: Improving Access to Nutrition. You may download the publication, which is free for Member Firms and available to others for purchase, by visiting our Resource Clearinghouse.

Are you engaged in a pro bono project that expands access to nutritious food in low-income communities, either at home or abroad? Leave us a comment and let us know.

Happy Thanksgiving!

* denotes a Signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®

denotes a Member of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project

November 20, 2014

Time to Schedule a Pro Bono Consultation

planeDon’t miss out on your chance to schedule a house call with the Law Firm Pro Bono Project. We recently met with law firms in New York City, and we are currently planning our travel schedule for 2015. Make sure your city is one of our destinations!

These house calls are part of our expert and confidential consultative services program, under which Law Firm Pro Bono Project staff visit law firms and meet with firm and office leaders; pro bono committees; pro bono partners, coordinators, directors, and managers; and others to offer individualized assistance. During these meetings we discuss issues and problems encountered, trends in pro bono, and learn about innovative pro bono projects under way at the firms we visit and in their communities. Help us promote and publicize your good work by keeping us informed. Since 2007, we have had successful house call trips around the country, and as far away from the Beltway as the U.K. and Australia.

If you are interested in taking full advantage of your Law Firm Pro Bono Project Member Benefits and would like to schedule a house call visit, please contact us. The details and agenda of the meeting can be tailored to meet your needs and focus on issues of concern and interest to you and your firm. Please note that it may not be possible to fill all requests this year. And, should your travels bring you to Washington, D.C., let us know – we’d be delighted to meet with you at your convenience.

November 19, 2014

Interested in Co-Hosting a 2015 Clinic in a Box® Program?

CCIB imagealling all legal departments and ACC chapters interested in co-hosting a Clinic in a Box® program in 2015 – the time to select a date and begin planning is now! An off-the-shelf model used by legal departments and ACC chapters around the country, with the support of CPBO, law firms, and public interest organizations, the Clinic in a Box® program offers in-house counsel and their colleagues the opportunity to guide a local nonprofit organization or small business through an assessment of its legal health, providing meaningful services to organizations in need.

CPBO’s Clinic in a Box® program is a popular way to engage in-house counsel in pro bono and assist local nonprofit organizations or small businesses. By the close of 2014, CPBO will have co-hosted 53 clinics, during which more than 1,500 in-house attorneys have participated and more than 500 clients have been helped. In total, these organizations assist hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries.

2015 is fast approaching and the calendar will fill up fast. Whether selecting the full-service or limited-support license, proper planning and preparation requires four to five months. To secure your preferred date and ensure sufficient time to make the clinic a success, please contact CPBO Director Eve Runyon.

November 13, 2014

“Stronger Than the Storm”

087   183A7543At last week’s 2014 PBI Annual Dinner, which took place at Gotham Hall in New York, PBI was honored to present the 2014 John H. Pickering Award to Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom*† for its outstanding innovation and commitment to pro bono and public service.

With the recent two-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy garnering significant media attention, we are struck yet again as to why Skadden was such a deserving honoree. Skadden’s leadership was on full display during its extensive involvement in post-storm relief efforts, both for individuals affected by the storm and for nonprofit legal services providers. Among other things, Skadden attorneys staffed disaster relief legal clinics, helped clients with Neighborhood Recovery Fund FEMA applications, provided advice to callers through hotlines, drafted materials for hurricane victims and pro bono attorneys, and trained volunteer attorneys. Skadden also quickly became a central hub for the New York nonprofit community, allowing organizations displaced by significant flooding, such as the New York Civil Liberties Union, the New York Legal Assistance Group, and Legal Aid, to set up temporary headquarters in the firm’s Times Square offices. As Hurricane Sandy hit shortly before the 2012 U.S. presidential election, Skadden’s generosity allowed many nonprofit organizations to continue providing critical election-related legal services.

As The PBEye previously reported, many other law firms, legal departments, and public interest organizations developed pro bono initiatives in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. There is always a great need for pro bono work following natural disasters, and there is still more work to be done as the recovery process continues.

Has your firm or legal department participated in pro bono projects related to Hurricane Sandy? If so, leave us a comment below and tell us about your experience.

* denotes a Signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®
denotes a Member of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project

November 11, 2014

Just in from New Orleans: New CPBO Challenge® Signatories

new-orleans-streetcarsCPBO had a great time at the 2014 ACC Annual Meeting in New Orleans! In addition to hosting several in-house pro bono events, CPBO had the pleasure of speaking with many in-house counsel supportive of pro bono, including representatives from two legal departments that committed to join the Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® initiative.

MSA Safety, Inc.** and Johnson’s Tire Service Inc.** became the 132nd and 133rd CPBO Challenge® signatories! The PBEye is excited to welcome these departments to the distinguished group of signatories and congratulate them for demonstrating their legal department’s commitment to pro bono.

The CPBO Challenge® initiative is designed to enable legal departments to identify, benchmark, and communicate their commitment to pro bono service. As part of the CPBO Challenge® initiative, chief legal officers encourage and promote pro bono service by their legal department staff and use their best efforts to encourage at least one-half of their legal staff to support and participate in pro bono service. In addition, chief legal officers encourage outside law firms with whom they work to acknowledge publicly their support for pro bono by becoming signatories to Pro Bono Institute’s Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® initiative.

All CPBO Challenge® signatories receive information, guidance, and tailored support, free of charge, from CPBO to strengthen their existing pro bono programs or to start new ones.  To read the full text of the CPBO Challenge® statement or to see the complete list of CPBO Challenge® signatories, visit the CPBO website. To learn more about how to sign on to the CPBO Challenge® initiative, contact CPBO Director Eve Runyon.

 

** denotes Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory

November 6, 2014

The State of Law Firm Pro Bono

snapshot thumbnailPBI’s Law Firm Pro Bono Project recently released its annual Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® Report, which examines the pro bono activities of firms that are Signatories to the Challenge. We are pleased to report that 2013 marked another strong year of pro bono performance. One hundred twenty-eight firms reported performing more than 4.3 million hours of pro bono service in 2013.

A few additional highlights include:

Hours Per Attorney Increase
Average pro bono hours per attorney increased in 2013 to 65 hours per attorney, from 62.2 hours per attorney in 2012.

Meeting Their Challenge Goal
Seventy-six firms met or exceeded their stated Challenge goal in 2013, an increase of 22.6 percent over the 62 firms that met or exceeded their Challenge goal in 2012.

Charitable Giving Numbers Increase
Although fewer firms reported their donations to legal services organizations in 2013, the total amount of charitable giving increased to $24,500,422 from $21,402,171 in 2012. This represents a 14.5 percent increase over 2012 giving, with an average firm donation of $471,162.

Check out the complete Challenge Report, including analysis of the data, detailed charts, and regional breakdowns!

We encourage firms to use their status as Signatories as a rallying cry and points of pride and distinction. Publicize your participation and your pledge of pro bono service inside and outside the firm, to your clients, and to the public interest groups with whom you work. Making a public commitment to the Challenge heightens awareness of pro bono at the firm, increases attorney participation, engages firm leadership, and sets a clear and shared goal for success.

For firms that have not yet joined because of a concern that they cannot meet the Challenge goals, we encourage you to enroll and use this proven tool to advance pro bono at your firm. There is no downside as we do not publish disaggregated statistics, nor do we in any way identify individual firms as having met or not met their Challenge goal. Rather, we work closely with Challenge firms to provide individual consultative services and support to help them improve their pro bono performance. If your firm of 50 or more lawyers would like to join the Challenge, please contact Law Firm Pro Bono Project Assistant Eva Richardson.

Now is the perfect time for your firm to join in our efforts to improve access to justice, as 2015 marks the 20th anniversary of the implementation of the Challenge. Be part of this special year.

November 3, 2014

Video: WDPB – David March, Target Corporation

Lawyers have unique skills that can be very beneficial to pro bono clients. This week, we hear from David March, senior counsel at Target Corporation** as he explains why doing pro bono is important to him both personally and professionally.

** denotes Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory

October 30, 2014

With the Clinic in a Box® Program, Verizon Has Great Reception

Verizon Communications, Inc.** plVZNJ 2ugged into pro bono again this month, hosting its sixth Clinic in a Box® program on October 16 at its headquarters in Basking Ridge, N.J., in collaboration with CPBO and DLA Piper *†. During the clinic, 13 Verizon volunteers assisted six local nonprofits that provide a wide range of services essential to the community, including youth advocacy, support for victims of domestic violence, and services for displaced children. By providing this opportunity for legal assistance to these organizations, Verizon has helped in making sure these organizations can continue to provide invaluable services to the community.

Many of the clients expressed how thrilled they were to receive help from such engaged volunteers and were happy to leave with “to-do lists” from the lawyers they met with that day. The volunteers were also happy to help, with many finding the experience not just personally rewarding but also a great opportunity to engage with other Verizon lawyers with whom they may not work on a day-to-day basis.

The success of VZNJ 1this clinic comes hot off the heels of the Clinic in a Box® program that Verizon hosted last month, which served nonprofit organizations from the D.C. metro area. It was at that clinic that John Frantz, Verizon vice president and assistant general counsel as well as chair of Verizon’s Pro Bono Committee, remarked how much Verizon’s pro bono efforts have grown since the company hosted its first Clinic in a Box® program just four years ago.

The Clinic in a Box® program is a time-limited pro bono opportunity that allows in-house lawyers and other legal department staff to work together to provide meaningful assistance to organizations that serve the local community. Those interested in reading more about past CPBO Clinic in a Box® programs should click here. To learn more about hosting a Clinic in a Box® program, contact CPBO Director Eve Runyon.

 

** denotes Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory
* denotes a Signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®
denotes a Member of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project

October 30, 2014

Don’t Forget to Vote – and Do Pro Bono

voteWith the 2014 midterm election just days away, The PBEye has been thinking about election-related pro bono opportunities. Pro bono lawyers are at the forefront of non-partisan legal efforts during and in-between major election cycles to ensure that all eligible voters have equal access to the ballot box and to cure legal flaws in the election system which threaten the accuracy and legitimacy of the voting process.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court weakened enforcement of the Voting Rights Act with its decision in Shelby County v. Holder, a number of states have moved forward with various voting restrictions, which have created confusion among the electorate and introduced new hurdles to accessing the ballot box that disproportionately affect low-income, minority, college-age, and elderly voters. As we previously reported, Law Firm Pro Bono Project Member Firms and Challenge® Signatories have devoted significant pro bono time and resources to protecting the right to vote in the months leading up to this critical election.

In addition to protecting voting rights, there are many other roles for pro bono lawyers to play at all levels of the election protection and reform processes on Election Day and year-round. Opportunities for involvement include crafting legislation, researching legal developments, monitoring the election process for unlawful behavior, interfacing between public interest groups and government officials on legal issues, representing eligible individual voters, and aiding local, state, and national organizations in bringing impact litigation to challenge unconstitutional election laws.

To learn more about how pro bono lawyers can play an important role on Election Day and all year-round, listen to the on-demand version of our webinar “Pro Bono in Practice: Elections.” CLE credit is available for this program in many jurisdictions. Registration is free for Law Firm Project Member Firms. Please contact Law Firm Project Assistant Eva Richardson for registration information or for assistance with becoming a Member.

For more ideas, check out the Law Firm Project’s popular publication Facing the Challenges of Citizenship: Election-Related Pro Bono Opportunities. Visit our Resource Clearinghouse to download the publication, which is free for Law Firm Project Members and available to all others for purchase.

Hat tip to PBI intern Mike Minahan for his help with this post.

October 29, 2014

PBI’s Got Seoul, Part 2

Last week, PBI was pleased to welcome officials from the Metropolitan Government of Seoul, South Korea. The visit comes nearly two years after PBI’s participation in South Korea’s first pro bono symposium. The officials, primarily from the Seoul government’s Legal Affairs Division, sat down with Law Firm Pro Bono Project Director Tammy Taylor and Global Pro Bono Project Coordinator Sri Katragadda to learn more about the history of pro bono in the U.S. The discussion was wide-ranging and touched on the role that PBI has played in the development of pro bono, as well as some of the challenges facing pro bono around the globe. The Seoul officials noted that South Korean lawyers are required to satisfy a mandatory minimum of pro bono hours every year or face a penalty. In addition, South Korean law provides lawyers as a civil right, but only if one is sued. This led to a discussion of unsatisfied legal needs for those who cannot afford a lawyer but do not meet the requirements to be assigned a lawyer, such as plaintiffs in civil matters.

This meeting is the latest in a series of conversations that PBI has had with lawyers and representatives from South Korea interested in pro bono, dating back to 2006. We are excited to stay engaged with the development of pro bono in South Korea, particularly in light of the number of global law firms that have opened offices in Seoul.

Stay tuned!

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