The PBEye

Pro Bono As We See It
June 22, 2017

Measuring the Justice Gap

Last week, the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) released a report, The Justice Gap: Measuring the Unmet Civil Legal Needs of Low-Income Americans,”  which is the result of a survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago of 2,000 Americans living at or below 125% of the Federal Poverty Level.  The report takes a detailed look at documents the extent of the “the justice gap,” which  LSC defines “as the difference between the civil legal needs of low-income Americans and the resources available to meet those needs.”

Key findings include:

  • Seventy-one percent of low-income households experienced at least one civil legal problem during the past year in areas such as healthcare, housing conditions, disability access, veterans’ benefits, education, and domestic violence.
  • In 2016, 86 percent of the civil legal problems reported by low-income Americans received inadequate or no legal help.
  • Low-income Americans seek legal help for only 20 percent of their civil legal problems.
  • In 2017, it is estimated that low-income individuals will contact LSC-funded legal aid organizations for support with 1.7 million problems. However, they will receive limited or no legal help for more than half (1.1 million of these problems due to inadequate resources).

University of Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh was among the speakers at a launch event for the report. “I may be a football coach,” he said, “but I am an American first and foremost, and all Americans should care about equal access to justice.” He continued, noting that it’s “about fundamental fairness…if you have money, you have access to justice. If you don’t have money, you have less access to our justice system, and that’s not the way it should work.”

To learn more about LSC and its current challenges and opportunities, check out our recent interview with Ronald Flagg on the Law Firm Pro Bono Project’s Podcast, the Pro Bono Happy Hour. The episode is available on Apple Podcasts and YouTube.

June 20, 2017

CPBO at the 2017 ACC Annual Meeting

The PBEye is happy to announce that the CPBO team will be staying put in D.C. for the 2017 ACC Annual Meeting. At the meeting, held October 15 – 18, you can get your recommended dose of in-house pro bono at the following events:

Clinic in a Box® Program Training  Sunday, October 15, 3:00 – 4:30 pm
Is your ACC chapter or legal department interested in co-hosting a Clinic in a Box® program? Join CPBO and be trained to co-host a Clinic in a Box® program, a half-day clinic that provides in-house counsel the opportunity to advise nonprofit organizations or small businesses while earning CLE credit.  (Note that registration is required and there is a separate fee to participate in this program.)

Clinic in a Box® Program  Monday, October 16, 8:30 am – 1:15 pm
Earn CLE credit while providing pro bono services to nonprofit organizations that are in great need of legal assistance. In the first half of the clinic, law firm experts train participants, who during the second half meet in teams with representatives of D.C. area nonprofits to provide legal advice. Training materials and information about the nonprofit clients are provided to participants in advance. (Note that pre-registration is required to participate.)

Session: Ethics of In-house Pro Bono  Tuesday, October 17, 2:30 – 4:00 pm
Are you concerned about pro bono practice and ethics rules, and/or interested in learning how you and your legal department can engage in providing pro bono legal services? This session will provide an overview of the ethical issues in-house attorneys face when representing clients in pro bono matters in the US, as well as address practical issues related to in-house pro bono. Topics will include administering a pro bono program, managing conflicts (both legal and business), and securing malpractice insurance.

Meet with CPBO  Sunday, October 15 – Wednesday, October 18 
CPBO looks forward to meeting with attendees when they have free time between programs. If you are interested in sitting down with CPBO for a few minutes to discuss options and initiatives for yourself, your legal department, or your chapter, please contact CPBO to set up a time that is convenient for you. Or, stop by the CPBO booth in the exhibit hall to see new resources and chat with the CPBO team.

To find out more about the events listed above, please contact CPBO, and for the complete ACC Annual Meeting schedule, click here. We look forward to seeing you in D.C.!

June 19, 2017

It’s Pro Bono Podcast Monday

Don’t miss the latest episode of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project’s podcast, the Pro Bono Happy Hour, featuring Ronald Flagg of the Legal Services Corporation. Ron talks to us about his career, his transition to LSC from private practice, his experience leading a law firm pro bono program while he was at Sidley Austin*†, LSC’s current challenges and opportunities, and more.

Subscribe to the Pro Bono Happy Hour on Apple Podcasts and be sure to leave a review! We’d appreciate the feedback and it would help us expand the conversation about access to justice. The podcast is also available on YouTube. Links to all of our episodes can be found here.

Listen along and let us know what you think. Send your comments, thoughts, feedback, questions, and suggestions to probono@probonoinst.org. Be warned: we might just read them on the air.

* denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® signatory
† denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Project® member

June 15, 2017

The State of Law Firm Pro Bono

One hundred thirty-five law firms collectively reported increases in total pro bono hours, pro bono hours for those of limited means, attorney participation rates, and charitable giving to legal services organizations, according to PBI’s Law Firm Pro Bono Project’s recently released Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® Report.  This annual report examines the pro bono activities of signatories to the Challenge, a unique, aspirational standard. More good news? Lives are being improved, rights are being protected, and access to justice is being advanced every day.

Among the many takeaways from this year’s Report:  firms are surpassing their challenge goals. Fifty-six percent of firms either performed the same amount or increased their pro bono hours over 2015. Twenty percent of firms reported significant expansion (in excess of 20% over 2015), demonstrating that major growth is possible. As always, we are grateful to our signatories for their dedication to improving access to justice and leading the way in pro bono service.

Check out the complete Challenge Report including analysis of the data, additional information regarding firm size and pro bono, detailed graphs, and more. Stay tuned to The PBEye for more highlights from this year’s Challenge Report, and the Law Firm Project’s discussion of the Report on our podcast, the Pro Bono Happy Hour.

If your firm of 50 or more lawyers would like to join the Challenge, please contact Law Firm Pro Bono Project Assistant Elysse DeRita.

June 13, 2017

Verizon Hosts a Clinic in a Box® Program in DC

On June 2, Verizon Communications Inc.** co-hosted a Clinic in a Box program with the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center, DLA Piper*, and Corporate Pro Bono at the Verizon offices in Washington, D.C. This was the 13th Clinic in a Box program Verizon has co-hosted with CPBO. The focus of this clinic was to help nonprofit clients set up their organization’s bylaws – a grey area for many nonprofits but also an essential foundation for their long-term success.

DLA Piper Partner Eric Geppert leads a presentation on nonprofit bylaws.

Verizon invited other legal departments to join its team of in-house volunteers, many of whom were returning participants. A total of 23 volunteers from Verizon, Bank of America Corporation**, Barclays Bank PLC**, Freddie Mac**, UnitedHealth Group Incorporated**, and new Verizon company XO Communications participated. DLA Piper Partner Eric Geppert kicked off the clinic with a volunteer training session on crafting and correcting bylaws for nonprofit organizations in accordance with D.C. law. Following the 90-minute presentation, the group put their training into action, meeting with eight local nonprofit organizations to review and update their bylaws. The clinic’s nonprofit clients engage in a wide variety of work serving vulnerable groups and individuals, including providing care and after-school support for young children, finding affordable and supportive housing for women with mental disabilities, and offering aid to pregnant women and parents. After gathering information about their client’s organization and its structure, the volunteers, working in teams, collaborated to update the bylaws and send revisions and notes to the clients.

The volunteers’ legal assistance at the clinic helped their clients avoid future roadblocks that might prevent the organizations from fulfilling their mission. Many of the volunteers appreciated the opportunity to assist nonprofit organizations, with one participant indicating that the clinic was a “great event and very fulfilling”. The clients echoed similar sentiments, commenting that “the team was very knowledgeable about nonprofit bylaws and their best practices”.

CPBO Director Tammy Sun and CPBO Assistant Director Shannon Graving check in volunteers and clients.

The PBEye thanks all of the co-hosts and volunteers for making this clinic a great success.

ACC chapters and legal departments interested in hosting a similar clinic, can learn more on the Clinic in a Box program webpage and read about previous clinics here. To discuss in-house pro bono, please contact CPBO.

* denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® signatory
† denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Project® member
** denotes a Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory

Hat tip to PBI Intern Sahil Shah for his help with this story.

June 12, 2017

It’s Pro Bono Podcast Monday

Don’t miss the latest episode of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project’s podcast, the Pro Bono Happy Hour, featuring Julie Orr of Davis Wright Tremaine*†. Julie talks to us about the firm’s pro bono program, pro bono valentines and heart of justice award, medical-legal partnerships, supporting survivors of domestic violence, and more.

Subscribe to the Pro Bono Happy Hour in iTunes. Be sure to rate us on iTunes! We’d appreciate the feedback and it would help us expand the conversation about access to justice. The podcast is also available on YouTube. Links to all of our episodes can be found here.

Listen along and let us know what you think. Send your comments, thoughts, feedback, questions, and suggestions to probono@probonoinst.org. Be warned: we might just read them on the air.

* denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® signatory
† denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Project® member

June 8, 2017

Act Now!

It’s Law Firm Pro Bono Project membership season. Complete and return the 2017-2018 membership enrollment form now to publicly demonstrate your firm’s support for pro bono. Submit your form before September 1 to receive a 10 percent discount.

Why wait? Renew or join today so you don’t lose the many valuable benefits available exclusively to Law Firm Project members, such as free publications, webinars, and the members-only section in the Project’s Resource Clearinghouse.

As a member firm, you will have access to a variety of additional services and resources designed to help you create and maintain a successful pro bono program, such as expert consultative services and discounted registration to the PBI Annual Conference. Please contact Law Firm Pro Bono Project Assistant Elysse DeRita, if you have any questions.

Special thanks to our first member firms for 2017-2018: Akerman†; Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld*†; Baker Botts*†; Blake, Cassels & Graydon†; Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck*†; Bryan Cave*†; Cozen O’Connor*†; DLA Piper*†; Drinker Biddle & Reath*†; Holland & Knight*†; Hunton & Williams*†; Kasowitz Benson Torres†, Katten Muchin Rosenman†; McDermott Will & Emery*†; Morgan, Lewis & Bockius*†; Seyfarth Shaw*†; and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom*†.

* denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® signatory
† denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Project® member

June 5, 2017

It’s Pro Bono Podcast Monday

Don’t miss the latest episode of  the Law Firm Pro Bono Project’s podcast, the Pro Bono Happy Hour,  featuring Bill Belitsky of Paul Hastings*†. Bill talks to us about why pro bono isn’t just for litigators, his career, the firm’s pro bono program, and more.

Subscribe to the Pro Bono Happy Hour in iTunes. Be sure to rate us on iTunes! We’d appreciate the feedback and it would help us expand the conversation about access to justice. The podcast is also available on YouTube. Links to all of our episodes can be found here.

Listen along and let us know what you think. Send your comments, thoughts, feedback, questions, and suggestions to probono@probonoinst.org. Be warned: we might just read them on the air.

* denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® Signatory
† denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Project® Member

 

June 1, 2017

Pro Bono for Mother Nature

As the days grow longer and the sun shines brighter, we are all eager to head outside and enjoy the summer season. Spending time outdoors reminds us how valuable and important it is to preserve our natural environment.  As we have previously reported, there are many opportunities that bypass both traditional and business conflicts for pro bono lawyers to use their legal skills to further environmental protections.

A number of Law Firm Pro Bono Project member firms and Challenge® signatories are devoting significant time and resources to eco pro bono work.  Notable examples include:

  • Baker McKenzie* represented the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in a lawsuit against the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) for polluting the Chicago River System. Three of MWRD’s sewage treatment plants were dumping excess phosphorous into the river system, causing an explosion of algae blooms. Algae blooms are a threat to nearby organisms because they deprive the water of oxygen, leading the organisms to die. Baker McKenzie helped the NRDC reach a settlement with the MWRD that requires the MWRD to upgrade their pollution controls by 2030, and mandates the MWRD join a committee dedicated to creating plans to eliminate algal issues in the most problematic areas.
  • Covington & Burling* advised SolarAid, and its social enterprise arm SunnyMoney, in their work to alleviate poverty in Africa by building a sustainable market for solar lights, which will create new jobs and inject money into the local economy. Their mission is to eradicate the use of unhealthy and unsafe kerosene lamps by 2020.
  • DLA Piper* worked with the United for Wildlife Transport Industry Taskforce to crack down on illegal wildlife trafficking routes.
  • Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson* successfully represented Conservation International in its effort to create a marine sanctuary off the coast of Belize. The sanctuary will be used to protect the world’s only known gathering site for the largest fish, the whale shark.
  • Hogan Lovells* represented The Barefoot College, which connects rural communities to solar, water, education, professionals, and advocacy efforts to help communities and individuals take control of their lives, wellbeing, and communities. One effort helped train 400 women in 35 different countries to become solar engineers. These women, often called “solar mamas,” will help bring light to over 20,000 homes.
  • White & Case* provided significant legal research to WaterLex, which works to secure the human rights to water and sanitation through law and policy reform. Approximately 50 lawyers across ten offices researched existing water legislation in five countries as part of a “Country Water Governance Mapping” effort.

In addition, the firm is addressing the collateral consequences of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, by joining forces with the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and the Education Law Center to file a class-action lawsuit on behalf of children in Flint, who were exposed to lead-contaminated water.  Lead exposure impairs cognition and is associated with an array of learning and behavioral challenges. These children, however, have been denied the special education services that are their right under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and Michigan state law.

Through their time and effort, pro bono lawyers can make a significant and meaningful impact, while fulfilling our responsibility to be good stewards of the planet. To learn more about pro bono opportunities and strategic partnerships with public interest and advocacy organizations, check out the Law Firm Pro Bono Project’s publication Saving the Planet, One Pro Bono Matter at a Time, which is available in our Resource Clearinghouse.

* denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® Signatory
† denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Project® Member

Hat tip to PBI interns Kelsey Muniz and Patrick MacDonald for their help with this post.

May 30, 2017

Leidos Takes the Pro Bono Plunge

In April, Leidos, Inc.** General Counsel Vince Maffeo, announced the launch of the legal department’s pro bono program to serve veterans, community nonprofits, and individuals in need.

Joining 167 other legal departments across the country, Maffeo signed the CPBO Challenge® statement, pledging to encourage and promote pro bono service in the Leidos legal department with an aspirational goal of 50 percent participation.

To kick off its pro bono initiative, the legal department hosted a department-wide legal ethics program presented by PBI President and CEO Eve Runyon and CPBO Director Tammy Sun on May 16 at Leidos’ offices in Reston, Virginia.

The program opened with a welcome by Leidos attorney Kristin Grimes, a member of the pro bono committee, who thanked Maffeo for his leadership and support of pro bono engagement. Runyon began by discussing the lawyer’s obligation to engage in pro bono service under the relevant rules as well as what kinds of service count as pro bono. Sun provided an overview of the various state rules that define the nature and scope of in-house counsel practice and how they impact pro bono practice for in-house counsel. The speakers also delved into common issues legal departments confront when engaging in pro bono matters, including insurance, the nature of the attorney-client relationship, potential conflicts of interest, and involving non-lawyer legal staff in pro bono.

The event gave members of the legal department an opportunity to ask questions, discuss the unique issues surrounding in-house counsel providing pro bono services, and consider how to address those issues in Leidos’ legal department.

In addition, the legal department pledged $10,000 toward pro bono efforts, donating $5,000 to the American Bar Association Veterans Claims Network. Another portion of the pledged funds will sponsor a CPBO Clinic in a Box® program where volunteers from the Leidos legal team will provide free legal advice to nonprofit clients.

To sponsor a pro bono ethics program or CPBO Clinic in a Box® program at your legal department or ACC chapter, please contact CPBO Director Tammy Sun.

** denotes a Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory

 

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