The PBEye

Pro Bono As We See It
May 5, 2016

Giving Back at Work

50The PBEye was thrilled to see three Law Firm Pro Bono Project Members Firms and Challenge Signatories make Fortune’s list of 50 Best Workplaces for Giving Back: Alston & Bird*†; Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz*†; and Cooley*†.

Fortune enlisted the help of Great Place to Work, which surveyed employees at more than 600 companies about the difference they make at work, the meaningfulness of their jobs, and the impact they feel their employer makes in its community. Their evaluations also considered the generosity of each company’s community-oriented programs, relative to its size and revenue. As we have long known, a “do good, feel good” mentality in a workplace inspires all of us to seek a higher purpose in our day-to-day jobs.

We congratulate these three law firms for making Fortune’s list and have no doubt that their strong pro bono programs played a key role in their selection. Keep up the good work!

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

May 2, 2016

It’s Pro Bono Podcast Monday

Podcast Box LFPNeed a new podcast to add to your line-up? Tune in to the Law Firm Pro Bono Project’s podcast, the Pro Bono Happy Hour, and learn about exciting and meaningful developments in the world of law firm pro bono. Each week we interview insightful and entertaining expert guests from Law Firm Pro Bono Project Member Firms and Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® Signatories, and offer a smart, fresh, creative take on pro bono.

You don’t want to miss our recent interview with Kate Fritz, Managing Partner of Fenwick & West*†. She discusses law firm leadership, the importance of integrating pro bono into a firm’s culture, tips for working effectively with firm management, how she was “forever changed” by her own pro bono work, and more.

Subscribe to the Pro Bono Happy Hour in iTunes. Podcast subscribers receive weekly new episode alerts, which you can then download and listen to at your convenience. The podcast is also available on YouTube. Links to all of the 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 Signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®
† denotes a Member of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project

April 28, 2016

Exercise Trackers and Pro Bono Motivators

fitnessWe were intrigued so see so many attendees at last month’s PBI Annual Conference wearing exercise trackers, and this observation got us thinking: these devices have changed lives. Why? No doubt many people had been walking a lot before they got their trackers, but they probably had no idea what they had accomplished. Now, they cannot let even one day (including one spent sitting in inspiring Conference sessions) go by in which they don’t reach their pre-set goals. We imagine attendees took repeated walks to see the cherry blossoms or even walked around their hotel rooms at night to reach their 10,000 step daily goals.

There is a deep connection between exercise trackers and the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®. The underlying message of the tracker is that when you count your steps; when you set high, but obtainable goals; when you periodically take stock of your actions, you will improve. In the same way, the Challenge is a pro bono motivator. Your firm sets specific goals:

  • A firm-wide commitment to provide 3 or 5 percent of your firm’s billable hours or 60 or 100 hours per attorney to pro bono work (at the level of your choosing).
  • A commitment that a majority of the firm’s pro bono time should consist of legal services to persons of limited means or to the organizations that serve them.
  • A commitment to use your best efforts to ensure that a majority of both partners and associates participate in pro bono activities.

Once a year, each Challenge Signatory completes a brief, confidential online survey about the firm’s pro bono performance. The annual reporting requirement acts as an accountability mechanism and an outcome measurement tool for firms and the Law Firm Pro Bono Project, and allows us to provide evidence-based guidance on emerging trends in law firm pro bono. We are currently reviewing the data submitted for calendar year 2015 and will be issuing our annual Report on the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® later this year. Law firms, like individuals trying to improve their fitness, are likely to accomplish more when they set goals and try to reach them, while keeping track of their achievements.

The Challenge has another parallel with exercise trackers: the devices are synced to a dashboard. Your performance information is communicated to your computer and you have a personal page where you can learn, at any moment, where you stand. Likewise, the Law Firm Project has created individualized dashboards for all Challenge Signatories. The dashboards track each firm’s historic pro bono data as reported to us. If you haven’t received your firm’s dashboard or would like another copy, please contact Law Firm Pro Bono Project Assistant Eva Richardson. We encourage you to share your customized dashboard with others at your firm and to use the tool as a source of pride in your accomplishments and as an aspirational goal to work toward. Publicize your participation and your pledge of pro bono service inside the firm, to your corporate clients, and to the public interest groups with whom you work.

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 tracker 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 Signatories 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 us.

April 26, 2016

Virginia’s Ongoing Commitment to Pro Bono

Chief Justice Summit (VBA) programOn April 20, the Chief Justice of the Virginia Supreme Court convened the 2016 Pro Bono Summit, sponsored by The Virginia Bar Association (VBA) and organized by a committee of the VBA’s recently appointed Pro Bono Council.  A biennial event, the first Virginia Pro Bono Summit was called in 2000 by then-Virginia Supreme Court Chief Justice Leroy Rountree Hassell, Sr., to expand the availability of free legal services for those unable to afford an attorney.

The 2016 Summit began with remarks by current Chief Justice Donald W. Lemons, a welcome by VBA President James Patrick Guy II, an introduction by co-chairs of the VBA Pro Bono Council Scott C. Oostdyk and Robert J. Stoney, and Bernard Goodwyn quotea report from the Virginia Access to Justice Commission by Justice S. Bernard Goodwyn.

The stage was set for presentations focused on solutions to access to justice challenges in Virginia. Among the speakers was Bank of America Corporation** Global General Counsel David G. Leitch who spoke on behalf of the in-house bar and reiterated the in-house commitment to pro bono and access to justice. Specific topics included the use of technology to connect lawyers in urban areas with rural pro bono clients and an update on Justice Server, developed by Capital One Financial Corporation**.

The Summit ended with a discussion of the “path ahead” and closing remarks by VBA Immediate Part President Harry M. Johnson.  By all accounts, including those of PBI President and CEO Eve Runyon and PBI Law Firm Pro Bono Project Director Tammy Taylor who were in attendance, the 2016 Pro Bono Summit was a great success.  However, as recognized in the goals established for the 2016 Chief Justice’s Pro Bono Summit Committee, the work must continue to implement the ideas developed and formulate a plan to integrate the 2016 Pro Bono Summit goals and objectives with the wider state pro bono plan.

The PBEye congratulates Virginia on its continued focus on pro bono as a tool to increase access to justice.

April 21, 2016

Community Listening Project

logoHere at The PBEye, we’re always on the lookout for innovative and replicable projects that promote access to justice. The D.C. Consortium of Legal Services Providers recently released a report on the personal and systemic challenges facing low-income D.C. residents and their areas of greatest need. The report contains the findings of a nearly three-and-a-half year “Community Listening Project” and aims to inform how legal and social services respond to the experiences of those living in poverty by asking them directly about their lives and attitudes.

The study is an exhaustive and qualitative analysis of focus group and survey responses collected from more than 700 low-income D.C. residents. In order to ensure that the findings aligned as closely as possible to the experiences of people living in poverty, they were involved throughout the entire process of developing and administering surveys and conducting focus groups. The five issues that survey participants identified as being most acute were housing, employment, neighborhood concerns, immigration, and debt. Other problems that emerged ranged from transportation to police to healthcare to debt and consumer issues to domestic violence.

Of particular interest to us was whether people with low-incomes are able to obtain legal help. Only 11.3 percent of participants said that they had ever even tried to find a lawyer for help with a problem over the past two years. (Of the small number who had tried, 59.6 percent were successful.) Even more troubling is that the issue of cost is tied to the perception of quality. Close to 60 percent of those who answered agreed or strongly agreed that “lawyers who will help you for free are not as good as lawyers who charge you.” Even among participants who had been assisted by a lawyer who did not charge them, the percentage was the same. The pro bono community must take these results to heart and come together to think creatively, strategically, sensitively, and inclusively about how to address these attitudes.

As legal services providers and pro bono leaders determine their representation and advocacy objectives and make decisions about how to allocate limited resources, it is important that we all have detailed and accurate information about the most pressing needs and viewpoints of low-income individuals in our communities. The Community Listening Project is an innovative initiative and could serve as a useful model for other communities around the country.

Know of any similar projects in your community? Leave a comment and let us know.

April 18, 2016

It’s Pro Bono Podcast Monday

Podcast Box LFPNeed an antidote for the Monday blues? Tune in to the Law Firm Pro Bono Project’s podcast, the Pro Bono Happy Hour, and learn about exciting and meaningful developments in the world of law firm pro bono. Each week we interview insightful and entertaining expert guests from Law Firm Pro Bono Project Member Firms and Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® Signatories, and offer a smart, fresh, creative take on pro bono.

You don’t want to miss our recent interview with Paul Marino of Day Pitney*†. He discusses how he balances his time between a full-time commercial practice and chairing his firm’s pro bono committee, using friendly competition to increase pro bono participation and engagement, examples of recent, meaningful pro bono matters, and more.

Subscribe to the Pro Bono Happy Hour in iTunes. Podcast subscribers receive weekly new episode alerts, which you can then download and listen to at your convenience. The podcast is also available on YouTube. Links to all of the episodes can be found here.

Listen along and let us know what you think. Send your comments, feedback, and suggestions to probono@probonoinst.org.

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

April 15, 2016

Upcoming Webinar: Global Due Diligence Manual

Due Diligence Manual Cover

Join us Thursday, May 5 at 12:00 p.m. ET for “Global Due Diligence Manual” a one-hour program hosted in conjunction with West LegalEdCenter.

PBI’s new Global Due Diligence Manual, produced in partnership with several global law firms, is a hands-on guide intended to help you locate, vet, and take on global pro bono opportunities. Join us for a discussion of clearinghouses, major NGO clients, research projects, and more. Learn how the Manual can help you expand your global pro bono program.

Confirmed Speakers:

  • Wendy Atrokhov, Latham & Watkins*†
  • Lisa Dewey, DLA Piper *†
  • Lou O’Neill, White & Case*†

Interested in-house counsel should contact CPBO Project Assistant Virginia Lyon for registration information or to submit questions in advance of the 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.

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
** denotes a Signatory to the Corporate Pro Bono Challenge®

April 11, 2016

It’s Pro Bono Podcast Monday

Podcast Box LFPLooking for a new podcast to add to your rotation? Tune in to the Law Firm Pro Bono Project’s podcast, the Pro Bono Happy Hour, and learn about exciting and meaningful developments in the world of law firm pro bono. Each week we interview insightful and entertaining expert guests from Law Firm Pro Bono Project Member Firms and Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® Signatories, and offer a smart, fresh, creative take on pro bono.

You don’t want to miss our recent interview with Joe Genereux of Dorsey & Whitney*†. He discusses the evolution of the profession and law firm pro bono, the pro bono culture in Minneapolis and the phenomenon of “Minnesota Nice,” getting business and transactional lawyers involved in pro bono, and more.

Subscribe to the Pro Bono Happy Hour in iTunes. Podcast subscribers receive weekly new episode alerts, which you can then download and listen to at your convenience. The podcast is also available on YouTube. Links to all of the episodes can be found here.

Listen along and let us know what you think. Send your comments, feedback, and suggestions to probono@probonoinst.org.

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

April 8, 2016

Ivan Fong of 3M Company Talks Pro Bono

ivan fong

Photo credit: The National Law Journal

Randy Milch, former executive vice president, public policy, and general counsel of Verizon Communications Inc.** and host of Legal Talk Network’s In-House Legal podcast recently spoke with Ivan Fong, the senior vice president of legal affairs and general counsel at 3M Company** about embracing opportunities. Fong leads 3M’s global legal department as well as its compliance and government affairs team. He is also a longtime advocate for in-house pro bono and has encouraged the growth of pro bono culture within in-house legal departments.

Fong’s professional trajectory has propelled him through both the private and public sectors. As part of their discussion, Fong and Milch considered this unique path with Fong providing advice for those considering moving their career in-house. Both strong proponents of pro bono, the two also discussed the incredible gap in access to justice in the U.S. and the importance of engaging in pro bono service to help meet this need, with Fong remarking that “practicing law is a privilege and part of our responsibility to ensure access to justice is to give back to the community.” Fong also highlighted other benefits, including the experiences gained from engaging in pro bono. Both through participating in professional training and helping the thousands of people who face legal issues every day, attorneys walk away with experiences that are truly rewarding, both personally and professionally. Pro bono also helps the corporate community set a good example and build reputation.

Specifically about 3M’s commitment to pro bono, Fong said the legal department’s pro bono work aligns perfectly with the company’s community affairs and community giving efforts, as well as the larger corporate value of “supporting communities in which our employees work and live.”

The PBEye applauds Fong and the entire 3M legal department for their incredible commitment to pro bono, and thanks Milch for ensuring that pro bono continues to be an important part of the dialogue on in-house practice.

 

**denotes a Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory

Hat tip to PBI Intern Maria Vlasie for her assistance with this post.

 

April 7, 2016

Schedule a Pro Bono Consultation

travel2Don’t miss your chance to schedule a “house call” with the Law Firm Pro Bono Project. We are currently planning our travel schedule for 2016 and early 2017. Make sure your city is one of our destinations. Or, should your travels bring you to Washington, D.C., let us know – we’d be delighted to meet with you at your convenience.

House calls are part of our expert and confidential consultative services program. 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 (in person or by video conference), please contact us. The details and agenda of the meeting are 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.

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