The PBEye

Pro Bono As We See It
March 26, 2015

John Oliver Gets It Right Again


On this week’s episode of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver tackled the issue of criminal justice debt, providing an in-depth look at how relatively small violations can have disastrous effects on the lives of low-income people. He explained how fines and fees arising from traffic and other low-level offenses, often used as a way to fund local governments without raising taxes, can trap those unable to pay in a vicious cycle of debt. Failure to pay a fine can lead to additional surcharges and fees, the suspension of one’s driver’s license, or even jail time in some cases.

Furthermore, the loss of a driver’s license can have particularly dire consequences, since most Americans drive to work. The segment cited a survey which found that 64 percent of low-income drivers in New Jersey who had their license suspended lost their jobs as a result. As Oliver aptly summarized this alarming scenario, “You need them to pay their fine, but you’re taking away their means of paying it.”

As The PBEye has previously reported, pro bono lawyers have a critical role to play in fixing an unjust system that increasingly criminalizes poverty and sends the poorest among us to jail for their inability to pay fines. Our friend Lisa Borden, at Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz*†, wrote a compelling blog post that shines a spotlight on this troubling issue and urges lawyers to get involved, as her firm has. Pro bono lawyers can have an impact by representing individuals, one client at a time, and by advocating for systemic reform.

Looking for a new pro bono project? This might be a meaningful place to start. Let’s not just laugh; let’s be inspired to action.

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

March 20, 2015

Member Benefit – Summer Associate Programming

sunPro bono has become a significant part of the summer associate experience and a crucial differentiator as talented law students make decisions about their futures. Again this year, Law Firm Pro Bono Project staff members are available to speak at events for summer associates. Each summer, we participate in a number of informational programs, during which Project staff, along with firm partners, directors, managers, coordinators, associates, and pro bono committee members, discuss an array of pro bono-related topics, such as:

• the relationship of pro bono to professional and skill development;
• national trends in pro bono;
• “hot” and emerging areas in pro bono;
• developments in in-house pro bono;
• pro bono current events; and
• the particular operations of the firm’s pro bono program and new initiatives.

These programs can be important representations of a firm’s commitment to pro bono and a useful tool for orienting and engaging your newest recruits. We are happy to tailor our participation and the program design to your firm’s specific needs.

If your Member Law Firm is interested in scheduling and designing a meeting (which may be conducted in person or by video) as part of your summer associate program, please contact Law Firm Pro Bono Project Assistant Eva Richardson. Please note that it may not be possible to fill all requests this year, so schedule your event soon.

March 19, 2015

“Twin Cities Legal Departments of the Year” Show How Corporate Success and Pro Bono Come Together

National twin citiesLaw Journal (NLJ) recently shone a spotlight on leading legal departments based in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region and there is at least one thing many of them have in common— commitment to pro bono. In fact, the department that NLJ highlighted as excelling in all categories, Best Buy Co., Inc.** has made pro bono a priority for more than a decade, when the department formalized its program in 2004. Since then, Best Buy’s attorneys have worked on a number of pro bono projects, including staffing expungement and housing clinics and providing assistance in unemployment and family law cases. In addition, the pro bono program has benefited from strong support from the department’s leadership, with several vice presidents having participated in the department’s pro bono ventures, displaying prominent and constant support of the department’s efforts.

NLJ also highlighted the pro bono programs at UnitedHealth Group Incorporated** and Ecolab Inc. UnitedHealth was noted for their “expansive program” which includes a wills clinic for both the elderly and for veterans, a birth certificate project to assist the homeless in obtaining birth certificates, and work with the Children’s Law Center of Minnesota on divorce/custody, adoption, education, and foster care placement. Like Best Buy, UnitedHealth’s legal department also experiences strong support from the top. For example, the company’s Chief Legal Officer has established awards for pro bono and community service.

Congratulations to all and keep up the inspiring work! For information on how to develop your own in-house pro bono program, please contact CPBO Director Eve Runyon.

** denotes a Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory

March 18, 2015

Verrilli, Kramer Offer Insight Into the Future of Pro Bono

PBI’s 2015 Annual Conference, held March 4-6 at the Capital Hilton, welcomed more than 300 professionals from law firms, legal departments, and public interest organizations from around the world.

Preceding a day full of educational sessions and networking opportunities, attendees gathered to hear from this year’s Opening Plenary guest speakers: U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verilli and FSG Co-founder and Managing Director Mark Kramer. Verilli emphasized the ethical obligation and professional incentives lawyers have to do pro bono, while Kramer discussed the benefits of using the collective impact model to create better client outcomes. Both guests provided examples of how effectively using pro bono skills, both individually and collectively, can make a significant impact in the communities where we live and work.

View Verrilli and Kramer’s full remarks below.

March 12, 2015

Last Call: Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® Reporting

Challenge flyerThe Law Firm Pro Bono Project is still accepting Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® data for the 2014 calendar year. Time is running out, so act quickly!

Reporting is easier than ever. This year, we have issued a more streamlined survey with fewer mandatory questions. Signatories need only provide information about their pro bono hours, pro bono hours provided to those of limited means, and attorney participation, although we welcome responses to the optional questions as well. We have also prepared a new, user-friendly, comprehensive FAQ to make responding straight-forward and efficient.

Thank you to those who have already submitted your firm’s Challenge data. Firms with 50 or more lawyers are welcome to join the Challenge at any time of the year and enjoy 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 Pro Bono Project Assistant Eva Richardson for assistance with reporting or for more information on becoming a leader in law firm pro bono.

February 26, 2015

Lunch and Learn at the Pro Bono Expo

Expo picThe 2015 PBI Annual Conference is less than a week away and The PBEye is excited to provide a sneak peek of the public interest organizations that will be featured at the Pro Bono Expo Lunch on Thursday, March 5. We have a record-number of prominent table hosts this year, 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 time to network, forge productive relationships and partnerships with public interest organizations from across the U.S. and around the world, and develop new pro bono initiatives.

Among the organizations hosting tables next Thursday are:

Center for Reproductive Rights

Children’s Law Center

Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles

Medical-Legal Partnership | Boston

Public Interest Law Initiative

We’ll also have tables dedicated to discussing the “state of pro bono” in Australia, Brazil, and Singapore. If you have questions about the Conference, please email us or call 202.973.8720. We hope to see you soon!

February 25, 2015

New Programming for Law Firm and In-House Attendees

2015AC-Header-WebWe’re getting excited for the upcoming PBI Annual Conference and we hope you are too! This year, we have expanded programming and networking opportunities exclusive to law firm and in-house attendees. The Joint Opening Lunch at 11:45 a.m. on March 4 will offer, for the first time, an opportunity for law firm and in-house attendees to kick-off their substantive Conference experience together. The following distinguished panel of experts will provide insights about the forces and trends that will shape the legal profession and the future of pro bono:

Mark Chandler, Cisco Systems, Inc.**
Greg Jordan, The PNC Financial Services Group**
Kim Koopersmith, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld*†
Mark Wasserman, Sutherland Asbill & Brennan*†
David Wilkins, Harvard Law School

Join us to explore developments in the economics and practice of law at major firms and in-house legal departments and how they may impact pro bono.

Also new this year for law firm and in-house attendees are Regional Joint Networking Exchanges, which offer dedicated time for you to meet or reconnect with pro bono leaders from your geographic region or global home base to share experiences, explore legal needs and opportunities for collaboration, and to discuss issues of particular interest to your specific communities. The networking starts at 10:30 a.m. on March 4 – don’t miss out!

Whether you are new to the Conference or an event veteran, we hope that you will enjoy these new opportunities exclusively-designed for law firm and in-house attendees. Bring your appetite, questions, and observations!

If you have questions about the Conference, please email us or call 202.973.8720.

* 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®

February 20, 2015

Sharing Perspectives: Visitors from the Philippines

Pic2Earlier this month, PBI and CPBO were honored to welcome a delegation from Mindanao in the Southern Philippines, in a trip organized by the U.S. State Department. The delegation, composed primarily of Filipino law student leaders, came to exchange views on the development of pro bono structures, culture, and leadership. The group sat down with Law Firm Pro Bono Project Director Tammy Taylor, CPBO Director Eve Runyon, and Global Pro Bono Coordinator Sri Katragadda.

Two of the non-law students in the delegation: Eldred Cole, deputy regional prosecutor of Dumaguete City and Rhobert Maestre, president of the Mindanao Youth Volunteer Corps, provided details on the country’s mandatory 60 hour annual pro bono requirement and a brief look at the country’s legal profession. Both voiced an eagerness to advance the culture of pro bono and noted that this would ultimately be accomplished by involving the next generation of lawyers; hence the group’s heavy composition of law students. We were inspired by the thoughtful questions of these students, including law school clinic leaders, who are passionate about enhancing the profile of pro bono within the Filipino legal sector. For our part, PBI and CPBO discussed the history of pro bono development in the U.S. We noted that development of pro bono can be seen as both cultural — a growing expectation that pro bono is a normal part of an attorney’s practice — as well as structural — the institutional development of pro bono programs.

Stay tuned for more pro bono developments in the Philippines from our new friends.


February 19, 2015

Conference Sneak Peek: Criminal Justice

The 2015 PBI Annual Conference is quickly approaching and one of this year’s highlights is a session about criminal justice. Although much of the Conference is built around peer-to-peer learning, we have expert-led sessions as well. “Pro Bono in Practice” sessions bring together those involved in a particular substantive area of public interest practice to explore the status of available pro bono opportunities, strategic approaches, opportunities for collaboration, and how to get started.

Pro Bono in Practice: Criminal Justice will be moderated by Lisa Borden of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz*†, who is a leader in addressing the issue of criminal justice debt. The panel will also feature two experts from prominent public interest organizations. Nancy Anderson will join us from Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which has led the recruitment of large law to participate in the Clemency Project. Rounding out the panel is Lauren-Brooke Eisen of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, which works to improve the criminal justice system, focusing on issues such as reducing mass incarceration and ensuring racial equality.

Join us on March 5 from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. to learn about critical legal issues of the day related to criminal justice and how pro bono volunteers can get involved and make a difference. If you have questions, please send us an email. We look forward to seeing you soon!

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

denotes a Member of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project

February 12, 2015

Welcome to Law Firm Pro Bono!

lf101Has your firm, of more than 50 lawyers, recently created or restructured a formal pro bono program? Is your firm planning to do so in 2015? Are you a newly-appointed managing partner, practice group or office leader, pro bono committee chair or member, pro bono counsel, partner, director, manager, or coordinator? If so, join us bright and early on March 4 for Law Firm Pro Bono 101 to jumpstart the 2015 PBI Annual Conference.

We know that leading a law firm pro bono program can be overwhelming, particularly when you are relatively new to the position or if the program is undergoing a reboot, and we are here to help! Law Firm Pro Bono 101 offers a crash course on the basics of structuring, implementing, and administering successful law firm pro bono programs. Law Firm Pro Bono Project staff members will also be available to provide participants individualized tips for navigating the Conference in order to maximize the experience, and introduce attendees to the resources and support available from the Project all year round. This interactive pre-Conference session is particularly helpful for first-time attendees.

This year, we are offering Law Firm Pro Bono 101 at no extra charge. Pre-registration is required for this program, so please email or call 202.973.8720 to enroll or to confirm your registration status.

Don’t miss out on this popular session. We hope to see you there!

    Older Posts >