The PBEye

Pro Bono As We See It
December 23, 2014

Great Causes, Great Work

We at The PBEye wanted to share this inspiring video from our friends at Morrison & Foerster†*.  Highlighting the firm’s 85,000+ hours of pro bono in 2013, the video explores the current crisis in access to justice and the important role that pro bono plays in helping close the justice gap. Watch above as the attorneys featured in the video explain what it means to be “MoFo.”

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

December 23, 2014

‘Tis the Season…for Challenge Reporting!

20th Anniversary logo (project colors)Reporting season for the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® will open in January, and Challenge Signatories should be on the lookout for an email with your unique survey link. The deadline for reporting data for calendar year 2014 is February 27.

Each year, Challenge Signatories provide a brief, confidential report to the Law Firm Project on their progress in meeting the Challenge. The individual firm data is kept confidential, but each report provides the basis for critically important aggregate statistics about trends in law firm pro bono.

Among other things, Challenge Signatories aspire to devote a majority of their pro bono time to persons of limited means or to “charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental, and educational organizations in matters which are designed primarily to address the needs of persons of limited means.” This aspect of the Challenge is particularly compelling at a time when poverty in the U.S. remains high and resources for legal aid assistance have been diminished. However, the information we’ve received in recent years on pro bono work for low-income individuals has been incomplete and potentially unrepresentative of the overall work that firms are doing.

We encourage firms to strengthen their data collection efforts and ensure that they are accurately and comprehensively tracking and reporting all of their pro bono efforts, including service to people of limited means and the organizations that serve them. To read more about why this data is so critical, check out the December edition of The Pro Bono Wire.

Firms with 50 or more lawyers are welcome to join the Challenge at any point in the year and are given a grace period before the reporting requirement kicks in. Now is the perfect time for firms to join our efforts to improve access to justice, as 2015 marks the 20th anniversary of the implementation of the Challenge. Please contact Law Firm Project Assistant Eva Richardson for more information on becoming a Signatory and a leader in law firm pro bono.

December 18, 2014

Back in Beantown, Serving Pro Bono

On December 10,boston the Association of Corporate Counsel-Northeast Chapter (ACC-Northeast), with CPBO, the Lawyers Clearinghouse, and Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky, and Popeo*†, co-hosted the first advanced Clinic in a Box®  program.  The advanced version follows a similar format and structure to the traditional model but focuses on a select topic of the law as it is relevant to the clients, either nonprofits or small businesses.

Hosted in Mintz Levin’s Boston office, this was the fourth annual Clinic in a Box® program co-hosted by the firm, CPBO, and ACC-Northeast. (The PBEye featured stories about previous programs in 2011, 2012, and 2013.) Over three years, more than 110 ACC-Northeast members conducted legal audits of 40 local nonprofit organizations, issue spotting and providing advice on matters of governance, employment, intellectual property, real estate, and tax. This year, ACC-Northeast was eager to expand its prior success and worked with the other co-hosts to develop a unique program that combines the successful aspects of the traditional model but offers a new opportunity to engage volunteers and assist the community.

The response to the new Clinic in a Box® program – Nonprofit Policies showed that the co-hosts’ instincts were correct, both in terms of client needs and volunteer interests, as 23 in-house counsel volunteers assisted eight nonprofit organizations. The clinic began with a one and a half hour training session led by the expert attorneys from Mintz Levin. Volunteers then met in teams to assist the clients in drafting nonprofit policies regarding conflicts of interest, whistleblower, and written information security program (WISP). The local nonprofit organizations, offering services ranging anywhere from assistance for victims of sexual and domestic violence to assisting homeless families to funding for rare cancer research, were thrilled to leave the clinic with new written policies for their organizations in hand, with many remarking how “friendly and knowledgeable” the volunteers were.

CPBO would like to thank the co-hosts for their hard work and dedication to developing and hosting this new Clinic in a Box® program – Nonprofit Policies and looks forward working together again. To learn more about co-hosting a Clinic in a Box® program, contact CPBO Director Eve Runyon.

December 18, 2014

Expo Lunch: Let’s Eat and Greet!

Planning is well underway for the 2015 PBI Annual Conference, which will be held on March 4-6 at the Capital Hilton in Washington, D.C. In addition to thought-provoking and inspiring sessions and programs, we are excited about the ever-popular Pro Bono Expo Lunch. A variety of prominent organizations will be hosting tables, and their expert representatives will share emerging issues, strategies, and innovations, answer questions, and provide information about cutting-edge pro bono opportunities available to your law firm or legal department. This is a unique opportunity to network, forge productive relationships and partnerships with public interest organizations from across the U.S. and around the world, and develop major pro bono initiatives.

2015AC-Header-Web

Are there any particular organizations or topics you would like to see represented at the Expo? Please email Law Firm Project Assistant Eva Richardson with your suggestions. If you have questions about the Conference or need assistance with registration, please email us or call 202.973.8720.

Mark your calendars – we hope to see you there!

December 12, 2014

ACE Group Aces the Launch of its Pro Bono Program

On Noveethics of in-house pro bonomber 17th, ACE Group Holdings, Inc. launched its formal pro bono program with a CLE presentation on the ethics rules relevant to in-house pro bono.  Like a number of other legal departments, including Towers Watson & Co. and PNC Bank, ACE called on CPBO to assist.  CPBO Director Eve Runyon presented once again, alongside longtime in-house pro bono supporter Susan Hackett, chief executive and chief legal officer, Legal Executive Leadership, LLC. The live event was broadcast from ACE’s offices in Philadelphia to its satellite offices in Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, and New Jersey.

The presentation began with a warm welcome by Carrie Davis, counsel, ACE.  Then, Hackett and Runyon gave an overview of ethical issues to consider when providing pro bono services, such as multijurisdictional practice rules, the formation of an attorney-client relationship, avoiding conflicts, and how an attorney may provide limited-scope legal services.  In addition, there was a robust discussion of non-attorney involvement in pro bono matters and pro bono partnerships between legal departments and other entities, such as law firms, legal services organizations, and other legal departments.  In sum, the program addressed a number of challenges to participating in in-house pro bono and offered guidance so that participants would feel comfortable using their legal skills to assist those in need.

The PBEye applauds Hackett and Runyon for paneling such a successful ethics program and congratulates the ACE legal department on the launch of its pro bono program. To read more about other in-house pro bono ethics events and resources, see Illinois Continues its Focus on In-House Pro Bono and In-House Pro Bono: Ethics. For more information about in-house pro bono, or on how your legal department or ACC chapter can host an ethics program in conjunction with CPBO, please contact CPBO Director Eve Runyon.

December 11, 2014

Juvenile Justice Scorecard

scorecardOur friends at the Juvenile Law Center recently released a rigorous national scorecard that grades jurisdictions based on their policies for keeping juvenile records confidential and allowing for sealing or expungement. In sum, the vast majority of jurisdictions fail to protect sensitive information contained in juvenile records, with none earning the maximum five-star rating and the national average coming in at three stars.

For the millions of youth arrested each year in America, 95 percent of whom are arrested for nonviolent offenses, juvenile records can follow them into adulthood and create barriers for success. In many jurisdictions, employers and other members of the public have access to such records, which can lead to young people being denied jobs, housing, or even access to higher education.

The scorecard reminds us that juvenile justice issues are fertile ground for lawyers, law firms, and legal departments looking to develop or expand their pro bono practice. The range of opportunities is broad and deep, with options for both small- and large-scale projects. Pro bono lawyers assist youth and their families as they work to seal or expunge a juvenile record. Lawyers can also take on related pro bono work, such as the school-to-prison pipeline, access to counsel, and more.

To learn more, check out the on-demand version of our recent webinar, “Pro Bono in Practice: Juvenile Justice,” during which expert panelists explore pro bono and legal developments related to juvenile justice. Registration is free for Law Firm Pro Bono Project Member Firms. Please contact Law Firm Project Assistant Eva Richardson for registration information or for assistance with becoming a Member.

December 5, 2014

A Great Pro Bono Lesson

On November 19, CPBO, oh1Central Ohio ACC Chapter (CO-ACC), United Way of Central Ohio, (UWCO), and Barnes & Thornburg*† co-hosted the second in a series of free legal education programs for nonprofits that are UWCO member agencies. This series was inspired by the Clinic in a Box® program, and provides critical legal information to nonprofit organizations in the Columbus, Ohio area that are unable to afford legal services by engaging local in-house counsel who are eager to share their knowledge and skills with organizations in their community.  The topic of the November 19 program was nonprofit governance. Nearly two dozen representatives of UWCO member agencies attended the event.

To start, Nathan Holschuh, pro bono committee chair, CO-ACC, and Jawana Richardson, assistant vice president of accountability and operations, UWCOoh2, welcomed the attendees to the program.  Presenters Veronica Bennu, managing counsel, Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company**, Rhonda Comer, senior vice president and general counsel, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, and Julie Veldman, associate, Barnes & Thornburg, then spoke about the legal aspects of nonprofit governance, including best practices relating to boards of directors and governance documents as well as compliance with IRS and Ohio legal requirements.

Following the presentation, attendees were given the new option of meeting individually with volunteer attorneys to receive brief advice on governance issues specific to their organizations. At least a fourth of the nonprofit attendees did so.

oh3The PBEye congratulates the co-hosts on another successful program and looks forward to reporting on future installments in the series!   In-house pro bono leaders interested in co-hosting a Clinic in a Box® program or developing a legal education or similar program can contact CPBO Director Eve Runyon.

 

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

December 4, 2014

Collaborating for Justice

shriverLast month, PBI hosted its eighth annual Leadership Convocation in New York. Prior to our Annual Dinner, law firm and in-house leaders convened to explore innovative ways to maximize the impact of pro bono in their communities. Expert panelists discussed how organizations and stakeholders are collaborating through large-scale, multi-institutional pro bono efforts to address critical problems and vast unmet legal needs.

We were excited to see a recent feature in The New York Times about one of the collaborative initiatives highlighted during the program: the Shriver Project, which consists of seven pilot projects that provide legal representation to a select number of low-income Californians in civil matters involving basic human needs such as housing, custody, conservatorship, and guardianship. Convocation program moderator, the Honorable Laurie Zelon of the California Court of Appeal, shared the Shriver Project’s origin story and the value of enhanced coordination between courts, other government actors, community players (legal and non-legal), and pro bono attorneys, with critical emphasis placed on evaluation and metrics. One of these collaborative pilot projects, the Shriver Housing Project-LA, runs the Eviction Assistance Center, a legal aid office, located onsite at the housing court, that provides full or partial assistance to one-third of the 15,000 tenants who face evictions each year in that courthouse. One form of assistance, helping tenants submit timely responses to an eviction notice within the required five-day period, has had a significant impact, with the percentage of cases resulting in automatic evictions declining from 50 percent to 35 percent since the Project was launched in 2011.

The Shriver Project is one meaningful example of how large-scale, collaborative initiatives can “move the needle” on a persistent aspect of poverty or an area of law in which underrepresentation is particularly acute, and ensure that pro bono efforts are having the most significant impact possible. Learn more about collaborative pro bono, including PBI’s Collaborative Justice Project™, at the 2015 PBI Annual Conference on March 4-6, at the Capital Hilton, in Washington, D.C. We hope to see you there!

We are grateful to Goodwin Procter*† for generously hosting the Convocation and networking reception.

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

December 1, 2014

Video: WDPB – Bukola Aina, Verizon

Not only is pro bono the “right thing to do”, it also gives corporations and organizations an opportunity to represent the values of their lawyers and non-lawyers. This week, we hear from Bukola Aina, counsel, IP Litigation, Verizon Communications, Inc. **, as she explains why pro bono is beneficial to all lawyers.

** denotes Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory

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

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