The PBEye

Pro Bono As We See It
September 18, 2014

Clemency Project 2014: Update

Since The PBEye first reported on Clemency Project 2014, which seeks to provide pro bono assistance to federal inmates who would have likely received lower prison terms under today’s sentencing laws, the initiative has made substantial progress.

More than 1,000 attorneys, including solo or small firm practitioners and lawyers from large law firms, have already volunteered. In July, the Project conducted a training program for prospective volunteers, which is now available on-demand and includes an overview of the federal sentencing guidelines, applicable caselaw, and the eligibility criteria. Pro bono attorneys have been helping the Project screen requests for legal assistance submitted by more than 20,000 federal inmates seeking representation to determine if they meet the U.S. Department of Justice’s clemency criteria. They will then help qualifying inmates write and submit petitions for commutation.

If you are interested in learning more about Clemency Project 2014 and offering your pro bono assistance, click here.

September 16, 2014

You’re Invited: CPBO’s Booth at the ACC Annual Meeting


Are you headed to New Orleans for this year’s ACC Annual Meeting held October 28-31? If so, The PBEye invites you to swing by the CPBO booth in the exhibit hall to meet with CPBO representatives and check out new resources.  CPBO has a variety of resources available to chapter leaders and in-house counsel from legal departments of all sizes who are interested in providing pro bono services, whether you are looking to start a program or have one that is already well-established.

If you would like to meet with CPBO for a longer discussion of options and initiatives for yourself, your legal department, or your chapter, contact CPBO to set up a time that is convenient for you.

To find out more about CPBO’s presence at this year’s ACC Annual Meeting read CPBO at the ACC Annual Meeting in The Big Easy.  If you cannot attend the ACC Annual Meeting and want to learn more about  in-house pro bono, contact CPBO Director Eve Runyon.

September 11, 2014

Integrating Pro Bono and Charitable Giving

2011-LFPBI-logo2-300x110At a time when law firms are being particularly careful about spending, there are synergies to be leveraged by integrating the firm’s pro bono program with its business giving and charitable foundation. There are different models of law firm charitable foundations and they vary in the way they operate, are structured, and how they intersect with the pro bono program. Check out the Law Firm Pro Bono Project’s recently updated compilation of Member Firms and Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® Signatories that have charitable giving foundations, where you can read about the foundations’ missions, structures, and the organizations to which they donate.

A firm foundation can play a critical role in the firm’s pro bono efforts by funding expenses associated with pro bono matters, including revolving litigation expenses, such as expert fees, travel, deposition transcripts, etc. Donations and financial support for public interest groups and legal services providers are, likewise, critical. Indeed, in the Challenge Statement of Principles and Commentary, “[w]e strongly encourage law firms to continue and expand their financial support of legal services organizations. These organizations need both service and monetary contributions from major law firms.” Firm contributions to nonprofit legal organizations, whose expertise and assistance make law firm pro bono possible, are essential to maintaining an effective pipeline of pro bono matters and a support network for legal services.

Visit our Resource Clearinghouse to download the publication. If you are with a Member Firm and are new to the Resource Clearinghouse, please contact Law Firm Pro Bono Project Assistant Eva Richardson to register.

Hat tip to PBI intern Lily Liu for her research assistance.

September 9, 2014

A Mighty Few Seek to Protect Native American Art

Indian Art

Photo Copyright: AFSC

While only a small group, volunteers from the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Northwest Justice Project, and Foster Pepper are aiming to have a big impact on a serious problem for Native American and Alaska Native artisans: counterfeiters.

Many Native American and Alaska native artists, whose income relies on creating and selling traditional arts and crafts, are unable to compete with counterfeiters who saturate the market with mass produced knock-offs. Beginning in 2010, the lean team of four attorneys and eight non-lawyers (including the AFSC volunteer committee) has attacked this issue using multiple legal and non-legal avenues by educating Native artisans about their rights, developing methods to identify authentic Native American Art, and using intellectual property and nonprofit law.

A number of years ago, in response to the prevalence of counterfeit products, AFSC formed the Indian Arts and Crafts Volunteer Committee. The Committee seeks to help Native artists threatened by products deceptively marketed as Native-made by informing them about their intellectual property rights. Specifically, Native artists are protected by the Federal Indian Arts and Crafts Act (IACA). The legislation, enacted in 1990 and amended in 2010, aims to prevent counterfeit goods from being falsely advertised and sold as authentic native artwork. Unfortunately, there is not an effective enforceable mechanism against violators, so in practice the law only protects consumers.

In response to the inadequacy of the law, AFSC partnered with lawyers from Foster Pepper and Northwest Justice Project with the aim to create a mechanism for stronger enforcement and an authentication process. The team is forming a nonprofit that will administer licensing and enforcement of a certification mark that will tell consumers which goods are authentically Native-made. Ultimately, this new and innovative approach aims to protect Native artisans from counterfeit producers and provide them with economic stability.

This unique partnership, consisting of only a few attorneys, plays a big role in strengthening the native communities and preserving traditional arts and crafts. The partnership reflects the wide-scope of available pro bono projects and showcases how a few committee volunteers and attorneys can create a lasting impact. The PBEye congratulates this mighty effort!

September 4, 2014

Upcoming Webinar: Juvenile Justice

gavelHave you been watching the recent events in Ferguson, Mo., following the police-involved shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown and wondering how you could make a difference? Join us on September 10 at 1:00 p.m. EDT for “Pro Bono in Practice: Juvenile Justice.” This one-hour webinar, hosted in conjunction with West LegalEdcenter, is part of our series of “Best of the 2014 PBI Annual Conference” webinars reprising and supplementing some of the most popular sessions from the Conference.

Pro bono lawyers can have an impact by representing individuals, one client at a time, and by advocating for systemic reform, changing laws, policies, regulations, and practices that benefit government bureaucracies at the expense of our human rights and dignity. The following panelists will explore pro bono opportunities and legal developments related to juvenile justice:

Mary Benton, Alston & Bird*†

Marsha Levick, Juvenile Law Center

Angela Vigil, Baker & McKenzie*†

This program will address the status of available pro bono opportunities, ranging from litigation to policy work; emerging legal issues; how to get started; and opportunities for collaboration. Join us to learn about pressing juvenile justice-related issues such as the school-to-prison pipeline, access to counsel, and collateral consequences of criminal convictions, and how pro bono volunteers can get involved and make a difference.

CLE credit is available in many states for this program. Registration is free for Law Firm Pro Bono Project Member Firms. Law firm participants should contact Law Firm Pro Bono Project Assistant Eva Richardson for registration information or to submit questions in advance of the program and in-house participants should contact CPBO Project Assistant Josh Lefebvre.

Schedule conflict? Don’t worry – the program will also be available on-demand shortly after the original broadcast date.

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

September 3, 2014

Video: WDPB – Jerri Shick, O’Melveny & Myers

Pro bono is a great opportunity for making unexpected and sometimes lifelong connections. This week, we hear from Jerri Shick, pro bono counsel at O’Melveny & Myers*, as she explains how pro bono work helped her form a personal connection with a client.

denotes Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® signatory

August 28, 2014

Thanks to Our Summer Crew!

Interns (2)Summer is coming to an end and The PBEye would like to thank our Sheehan Scholars and interns for their hard work over the past few months.

We welcomed our fifth class of Sheehan Scholars this summer: Jordyn Coad (American University Washington College of Law) and Lori Panosyan (The George Washington University Law School). Bob Sheehan – head of the pro bono program at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom*†, former Executive Partner (1994-2009) of the firm, and Co-Chair of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project Advisory Committee – and his family provided the financial support to launch this program in 2010, which has been named in his honor in recognition of his extraordinary pro bono leadership. We are grateful to the Sheehan family for their generosity and to Jordyn and Lori for spending their summer with us. They were joined by two terrific undergraduate interns: Samantha Fry (Yale University) and Sam Mancina (University of Michigan).

Our interns and Sheehan Scholars worked on a variety of projects – large and small – during their time at PBI and you’ve seen the fruits of their labors. We are grateful for their diligence and dedication, and we especially enjoyed their energy and fresh perspectives. We are also appreciative of the firms, organizations, and individuals, such as the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), Foley & Lardner*†, Fredrikson & Byron*†, Venable*†, and Pam Wandzel, who supported our summer program by inviting our interns and staff to events and donating time to provide additional professional development opportunities.

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

August 26, 2014

Aging Out, Pro Bono Steps In

helping hands

In 2012, more than 23,000 children turned 18 and “aged out” of the foster care system in the U.S., according to federal statistics. Without parents or guardians for support, these children often face the usual challenges of growing up without parental advice or guidance. And unlike teenagers and young adults who gradually learn to deal with real-world challenges, these former foster care children are thrown into adulthood headfirst. The day they turn 18, they exit the system and must care for themselves – signing an apartment lease, applying for jobs, learning to cook, and graduating high school all on their own.

Unsurprisingly, these responsibilities and challenges overwhelm many former foster care children, many of whom have also experienced traumatic and unstable childhoods. Without a support system, they are far more likely than their peers to face issues like unemployment, illness, homelessness, and incarceration.

Fortunately, there are a number of organizations across the country dedicated to easing the transition for these young adults and facilitating pro bono legal aid. These programs make it easier for individual attorneys to get involved, either in a specific case or through their clinics. For example:

  • In Seattle, the Center for Children & Youth Justice’s “Lawyers Fostering Independence” program sponsors volunteer clinics on legal rights and helps connect children who have aged out of the foster care system and are now 17-23 years old with pro bono legal aid.
  • In Los Angeles, the Alliance for Children’s Rights’ “NextStep Program” provides transitioning young adults with skills training and educates them on their legal rights.
  • Florida’s Children First aids former foster care children through their program “Justice for Foster Youth at LAST (Lawyers Assisting Successful) Transition),” which brings together transitioning youth with pro bono attorneys to guide and advise them up to age 25.

The PBEye has recognized the efforts of several law firms to help these young adults, but the need is great and the opportunities to assist are available to all attorneys.

Children aging out of the foster care system face some daunting obstacles as they enter the adult world, both legal and personal. Pro bono legal aid can make a meaningful and tangible impact on the lives of these at-risk teens and help them navigate these critical years.

Hat tip to PBI intern Samantha Fry for her assistance with this blog.

August 21, 2014

Is Your Firm Camera-Ready? (Part Two)

Camera2Last week, The PBEye reported on ways that firms can use videos both internally and externally to showcase their commitment to pro bono and enhance their pro bono marketing efforts. These videos come in many varieties; some videos feature attorneys and staff discussing why they do pro bono and the broad range of the firm’s pro bono offerings, others go deep and focus on particular pro bono cases undertaken by the firm, and some spotlight pro bono clients, enabling them to tell their own stories and share their perspectives.

We recently reviewed more than 80 pro bono videos, which had been produced by some 40 different Law Firm Pro Bono Project Member Firms and Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® Signatories. The selections below exemplify the wide range of themes and styles of firm pro bono videos:

Cooley*† conveys the firm’s passion for pro bono work as attorneys and staff discuss the importance of pro bono. In this fast-paced video, each person describes what pro bono means to him or her in just three words.

Hogan Lovells*† demonstrates its global reach, specifically pro bono work in its London office, in a video that provides in-depth descriptions of a variety of litigation and transactional pro bono matters, ranging from the representation of trafficking victims to the provision of legal assistance to nonprofit organizations.

Latham & Watkins*† produced an engaging video in which firm attorneys and staff explain why they do pro bono. Their enthusiasm and dedication to pro bono jump off the screen as they share inspiring stories and reveal what motivates them to get involved.

Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe’s*† video highlights both the firm’s transactional pro bono work and pro bono litigation. This video, as well as others that focus on specific pro bono victories, effectively features pro bono clients in addition to firm attorneys and staff.

Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman* has created a series of brief, in-depth videos that each focus on one attorney and his or her experience working on a particular pro bono matter. These videos also convey the scope and breadth of the firm’s pro bono practice, which includes impact litigation, the provision of critical legal services to the poor, counseling nonprofit organizations, and more.

Ropes & Gray*† provides a sampling of different pro bono matters undertaken by the firm, such as efforts to secure lawful immigration status for students so they can qualify for federal loans and representation of a death row inmate. The video also touches on the benefits of doing pro bono work, including the enhanced opportunities for attorneys to develop their legal skills.

Please contact Law Firm Project Assistant Eva Richardson if you would like a comprehensive list of the pro bono videos we reviewed. Also, don’t forget to check out PBI’s YouTube channel to see some of our videos.

If your firm has recently created a pro bono video, leave a comment and share a link!

Hat tip to PBI intern Sam Mancina for his help with this post.

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

August 20, 2014

In Western-MA, MassMutual Leads

Headquartered in Springfield, Mass., and having a large satellite office in nearby MASS outlineEnfield, Conn., with a combined legal department composed of 56 attorneys and 80 non-lawyers, Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company** (MassMutual) has the distinction of employing more lawyers than any other company or law firm in the greater Springfield area. As a result, when the legal department started to formalize its pro bono efforts in 2007, it did not have the option of working with a larger legal department or large firm with an existing pro bono program. Instead, MassMutual developed its own distinctive pro bono effort. Over the past seven years, MassMutual has become the local pro bono leader, working with each local pro bono community organization, engaging local law firms in its pro bono efforts, and hosting trainings for volunteers both from MassMutual and other organizations.

MassMutual’s first pro bono partnership, formed in 2007, included local law firm Heisler, Feldman, McCormick and Garrow (HFMG). HFMG, which already had a strong commitment to pro bono, helped MassMutual get its initiative off the ground through the Western Division Housing Court Lawyer for the Day Program. Collaborating with HFMG, The Women’s Bar Foundation, the Hampden County Bar Association, and Community Legal Aid, numerous MassMutual attorneys, including General Counsel Mark Roellig, volunteer at the weekly clinic on eviction day. In addition to staffing the clinic, MassMutual sponsors ongoing trainings for MassMutual and other volunteers which encourage a minimum of two volunteers to staff the eviction clinic every week. In the last two years, the Housing Court Lawyer for a Day Program served more than 169 clients. Overall, the efforts have engaged more volunteers, reduced the burden on public interest organizations involved with the Housing Court Lawyer for the Day Program, and increased the number of clients receiving assistance.

MassMutual has continued its leadership in expanding pro bono legal services through its collaborations with other organizations. For instance, MassMutual partners with the Hampden County Bar Association (HCBA) to sponsor the HCBA Legal Clinic. The HCBA Legal Clinic centrally coordinates pro bono efforts throughout the county, including the existing Housing Court Lawyer for the Day Program and Springfield District Court Lawyer for the Day Program. The District Court Lawyer for the Day program is unique in that it allows lawyers to assist consumers out of court. Attorneys problem-solve, guide consumers with court forms, and provide legal advice on civil issues. The types of cases covered in this program are small claims, supplementary process, unemployment appeals, summary process/evictions, and other general civil matters for pro se litigants. Since the program’s creation in May 2012, 575 consumers have been given legal advice and assistance with forms.=
More recently, MassMutual joined with the HCBA Legal Clinic and Community Legal Aid to explore expanding its pro bono efforts to the Probate and Family Court by training volunteers for a program whose volunteers review guardianship petitions and reports for the Court.

In an effort to inculcate aspiring lawyers with a sense of community service, MassMutual also collaborates with Western New England University School of Law to provide pro bono opportunities for law students.

While most of MassMutual’s pro bono work is centered in Massachusetts, MassMutual volunteers also engage in transactional pro bono opportunities through the Pro Bono Partnership (PBP) and assist nonprofits serving the disadvantaged or enhancing the quality of life in low income neighborhoods in the New York Tri-State area.

HCBA President-elect Christina Turgeon said:

MassMutual has historically played an active role in the Springfield community and over the last six years has helped shape the face of the pro bono services available. Its strategy to partner with the County Bar Association and other local providers of pro bono legal services has allowed for an expansion of existing projects and for the development of new and exciting programs, improving the quality of life for many and helping to secure access to justice regardless of economic status.

The PBEye applauds MassMutual’s in-house pro bono leadership.


** denotes Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory

    Older Posts >