The PBEye

Pro Bono As We See It
July 24, 2014

Don’t Delay, Become a Member Today!

hcMore than 40 firms have already become Law Firm Pro Bono Project Members for 2014-2015. These firms have publicly demonstrated their leadership and commitment to pro bono service. Submit your enrollment form before September 1 to receive a 10 percent discount.

As a Member Firm, you have exclusive access to a variety of resources, such as expert consultative services, to help ensure the health and vitality of your pro bono program. In addition to receiving individualized (and confidential) assistance from Project staff via phone and email, Member Firms also get priority scheduling for house call visits. During these visits, Project staff meet with pro bono committees, firm and office leaders, partners, pro bono coordinators, directors, and managers to discuss issues and problems encountered, trends in pro bono, and learn about innovative pro bono projects under way at firms and in their communities. Customized advice can assist your firm to develop or restructure its pro bono governance and staffing, engage in strategic planning, create a signature project, establish a pro bono partnership with a corporate client, enhance your use of pro bono as a training and professional development tool, and more.

Check out our Member Benefits page for more details on these and other benefits. Please contact Law Firm Project Assistant Eva Richardson if you have any questions.

We look forward to welcoming your law firm as a Member soon!

July 22, 2014

CPBO to Host “In-House Pro Bono: How to Start” Session at the 2014 ACC Annual Meeting

ACC BAnner

CPBO has a lot planned this year for its trip to the Big Easy for the 2014 ACC Annual Meeting from October 28-31.  On Thursday October 30, CPBO will host a session on “In-House Pro Bono: How to Start.”  The session will provide an overview on how to develop pro bono at your legal department or ACC chapter through guidance and best practices; it will also provide information on specific opportunities available to in-house counsel, regardless of department or chapter size.

For many years in-house pro bono was a new concept at a handful of legal departments and ACC chapters and an unknown concept to most.  Now engagement in in-house pro bono spans the continuum from novice to experienced and mature.  For in-house counsel, the ACC Annual Meeting session provides a great opportunity to consider ways to get involved and improve access to justice through pro bono service.

The session will include as panelists Exelon Corporation’s** Associate General Counsel, Traci Braun; The Clorox Company’s** Corporate Counsel, Adam Brink; and WPX Energy, Inc.’s Senior Counsel, Wendy Brooks.

For more information about CPBO’s ACC Annual Meeting session on October 30, please contact Eve Runyon. We look forward to seeing you there!

 

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

July 17, 2014

“Disruptive” Pro Bono?

With Independence Day behind us, we are officially on to the second half of 2014. The long summer days provide the perfect opportunity to pause and reflect on our accomplishments, our shortcomings, and our plans for the future. Recently, the notion of “disruption” has caught our eye, here at The PBEye.

Clayton Christenson defines “disruptive innovations” as “innovations that transform products which . . . are complicated and expensive into things that are so affordable and accessible that a larger population of people has access to them.” Industry by industry (Uber! Twitter!), these disruptive innovations have flipped the status quo upside down, redirecting scarce resources, rearranging management systems, and applying technology in new ways. Even the traditionally risk-adverse legal industry is ripe for “disruption.”

Access to legal services is both “complicated and expensive.” With 80-90 percent of the legal needs of low-income Americans currently going unmet, we have a mind-bogglingly large number of people who are being denied access to justice. How could the potentially transformative ideas of “disruption” apply to ameliorate our justice gap? Can we identify and correct inefficiencies, incorporate new technologies, and restructure delivery systems to make pro bono more efficient, accessible, meaningful, and impactful? It’s time to shake up the status quo.

Let’s question conventional wisdom and our assumptions about technology, strategy, administration, and structure, with the goal that new and unexpected pro bono opportunities and solutions will come to light. Here are some of the questions we are asking:

• How can we design and test new, creative pro bono delivery systems? Are we still spending an inordinate amount of time vetting and placing individual matters and recruiting individual volunteers? Can we adopt different operating assumptions and alternate structures to better serve more pro bono clients?

• How can we tap into the current “do-it-yourself” ethos? What resources and tools can we provide to allow pro se litigants to better help themselves? What resources in what formats (video tutorials, FAQ’s of court processes, form legal documents, manuals, etc.) can be made more widely available? How can these resources best be made available to the public, including individuals who lack easy access to technology? Are we being sufficiently sensitive to all of the potential obstacles and barriers facing the underrepresented?

• How can we develop and employ robust “triage” systems that diagnose legal problems and determine the most effective intervention? Are we distinguishing between people who need brief service and advice, education about legal issues and rights, pro se representation, mediation and negotiation assistance, unbundled legal services, or full representation with zealous advocacy by a lawyer?

• Are we listening to our pro bono clients and volunteers? Are we gathering and analyzing meaningful feedback from them and using that information to improve the pro bono services we deliver?

• Are we studying, experimenting, testing, analyzing, adapting, and replicating successful innovations? How can we facilitate open communication so that good – and workable – ideas and solutions are shared and widely disseminated?

As we step out of our comfort zone, these are just a few of the uncomfortable questions we are asking ourselves and assumptions that we are challenging. We hope you take some time this summer to reflect on the structure and efficacy of your pro bono program and brainstorm opportunities for creative and productive “disruption.”

Hat tip to PBI intern Samantha Fry for her help with this post.

July 16, 2014

Television and Pro Bono: An Innovative Approach

How does one of the world’s premier entertainment brands engage its lawyers in pro bono?  It does what comes naturally and combines the medium of television with the unique skills of its legal department and production staff to make a difference to those in need around the globe.

viacom image

© MTV Staying Alive Foundation

In 2006, Kenya adopted the Sexual Offences Act, designed to combat gender-based violence. For several years after its passage, implementation of the law proved difficult as the new rights and obligations were not well-understood.  To increase public awareness of gender-based violence and the implications of the new law, the legal department of Viacom International Media Networks, a division of Viacom Inc.**, worked with the producers of its television program Shuga: Love, Sex, Money to incorporate important legal information into the storyline and leverage the program to educate the Kenyan community and viewers around the world.

The television show, which is shown on stations worldwide, is produced by MTV Networks Africa, The MTV Staying Alive Foundation and several other partners, and is part of a large multimedia campaign with a goal of achieving a generation free of HIV.  During the show’s pre-production phase, Viacom worked with Shearman & Sterling* and Lawyers Without Borders to research and analyze Kenyan case law so that they could then consult with the production team to structure a plotline regarding rape and draft materials for a public legal education campaign.  The Shuga pro bono team included lawyers from offices throughout Europe and the U.S., who collaborated across borders with each other and with NGOs in Kenya to develop legal messaging that would be relevant and accessible to the Kenyan public.

The public education materials produced by the team were designed using the characters and storyline from the television program and aimed to increase public understanding of gender violence and raise awareness of the Sexual Offences Act.  By identifying core messages for public education and drafting a resources section on sexual assault, content teams were able to effectively design a graphic novel and other non-traditional educational media using Shuga characters. The materials supplemented the television show so individuals unfamiliar with the program or without television could still access the information.  In addition, a “toolkit” that includes additional resources is available to Shuga partners, who work in and around Kenya.  The materials were made available online, marketed through the radio, referenced by lawyers and judges conducting trainings, and publicized through a Kenyan national newspaper, which ran the graphic novel as a serial.

This unique and innovative project dramatically expanded the impact of the pro bono work by partnering pro bono legal services with television and print media to spread legal education to an entire population.  It is an excellent example of how a legal department is able to contribute its unique legal skills to the community service efforts of the company as a whole, as well as the company’s products and services, and make a tremendous difference in the communities in which they operate.

Viacom Executive Vice President, General Counsel & Secretary Michael D. Fricklas spoke about the pro bono efforts for Shuga and the potential impact of in-house pro bono at a recent meeting of in-house pro bono leaders in New York.  Fricklas notes,

I couldn’t be more proud of the work our lawyers have done on the Shuga project. They have been working on the scripts, editing story lines and reaching millions of people. Given Viacom’s global footprint, international pro bono is a big piece of our overall pro bono efforts. This project was also particularly interesting because it allowed us to collaborate with, and leverage the expertise of, colleagues around the world. As a media company, we have to figure out what the right opportunities are and we are lucky we had this opportunity to do something that is a little different. Lawyers within every industry can find special projects that reflect their particular strengths.


The PBEye can’t wait to hear more about this team’s upcoming project in Nigeria, which focuses on domestic violence and gender violence.

 

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

July 10, 2014

The Colbert Report Takes on Criminal Justice Debt

 

Last month, the satirical news show The Colbert Report shed light on a persistently troubling part of our nation’s justice system: criminal justice debt. As we’ve previously reported, the costs associated with being a low-income offender can be overwhelming as many states and localities charge fees and surcharges to fund the criminal justice system at every step of the process, from the courtroom to jail to probation. These may include fees for public defenders, jail fees, court administrative fees, prosecution fees, probation fees, parole fees, and more. Failure to pay these “poverty penalties” can lead to additional prison sentences or other consequences, such as the inability to obtain a driver’s license, that pose barriers to successfully re-entering society.

In show host Stephen Colbert’s segment “The Word,” he explains how many low-income offenders face one of two options: debt or prison. Amidst jokes about the U.S.’s high incarceration rate (number one in the world) and the ways in which prisons cut corners, he lays bare the modern-day debtors’ prisons caused by excessive fees. Colbert facetiously notes that the best part about these fees is that they are “self-sustaining investments,” explaining that “if a defendant can’t pay a fee, they go to jail, where they’ll rack up more food and boarding fees that they can’t pay, and be penalized with more jail time, thus increasing their debt, which gives them even longer prison sentences.”

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 court costs. For more information about the problems of criminal justice debt collection policies and areas that advocates can target for reform, check out the Brennan Center for Justice’s report, “Criminal Justice Debt: A Toolkit for Action” and NPR’s yearlong investigation, Guilty and Charged, which includes more than 150 interviews with lawyers, judges, offenders, government officials, and advocates.

Watch the video clip and let us know what you think.

July 9, 2014

 “Best Legal Department” Finalists dedicated to Pro Bono


Best of 2014

More from Corporate Counsel Magazine on their Best Legal Departments award means more talk of in-house pro bono!  Corporate Counsel recently recognized three finalists for their 2014 award, noting the departments’ persistence, innovation, and success over the last few years.  The PBEye would like to recognize these three legal departments for another great accomplishment, their unwavering commitment to pro bono service.

As signatories to the Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® initiative, the legal departments of Marsh & McLennan Companies** and Ford Motor Company** have made a commitment to encourage half of their legal staff to participate in pro bono.  In addition, Corporate Pro Bono in 2012 honored Ford with the CPBO Pro Bono Partner Award.  Led by Group Vice President and General Counsel David Leitch, the department was recognized for its work to improve the lives of low-income residents of Michigan through programs like their Food Stamp Clinic and Nonprofit Survival Series Clinics.

Entergy Corporation’s team of lawyers stepped up their commitment to their local community, providing pro bono services to low-income residents in New Orleans.  Under the leadership of Executive Vice President and General Counsel Marcus V. Brown, the legal department has helped the city’s must vulnerable through work with the courts and local legal services organizations.

Undoubtedly, the unity and passion that these legal teams dedicated to their pro bono work played a significant role in their corporate success.  Congratulations to all and keep up the inspiring work!

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

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

July 9, 2014

Plans for Mandatory Pro Bono Service in Saudi Arabia

As recently reported in the Saudi Gazette, official sources from the Justice Ministry of Saudi Arabia have disclosed plans to impose mandatory pro bono requirements on the Kingdom’s lawyers. Under the Ministry’s new special statute, lawyers will be required to provide pro bono representation to at least nine poor persons per year.

Mandatory pro bono has been greatly debated in the U.S. PBI President and CEO Esther F. Lardent has noted that while bold steps must be taken to address the access to justice gap, philosophical and pragmatic reasons weigh against imposing mandatory pro bono in the U.S. at this time. PBI has endorsed a number of steps the legal profession can take, including “voluntary plus” pro bono, in which the U.S. system expects every lawyer to undertake pro bono unless they opt out, and acts accordingly. This is a fundamental shift in culture and perspective for the U.S., but is a change that falls short of mandating pro bono service.

The PBEye is acutely aware that different countries, cultures, and legal systems should experiment with different approaches to addressing gaps in access to justice unique to their situation; this new mandatory pro bono rule in Saudi Arabia is a development we will follow with interest. Under the change, service required will include provision of legal advice, defending clients in court, and following up on cases. Ministry sources noted that plans for the new program arose after visits to several EU countries and an assessment of their legal aid systems for the poor. The launch of Saudi Arabia’s program is intended to address the problem of low-income citizens in the Kingdom who are unable to pay the high costs of lawyers.

July 3, 2014

One New Zealand Law School’s New Hourly Requirement for Graduation

While mandating lawyers to participate in or report pro bono is a hotly debated topic these days, requiring law students to engage in pro bono has been more widely accepted in the U.S. A number of law schools require students to complete a certain number of hours of pro bono service before graduating. And as The PBEye previously reported, New York state recently implemented a rule which took effect on January 1, 2013, requiring prospective attorneys seeking admission to the bar to have first performed 50 hours of “law-related” pro bono service.

Jumping across the world to New Zealand, starting in 2015, the University of Canterbury Law School will implement a 100 hours of practical experience requirement for graduation, one which students can satisfy through either pro bono or paid work. As the law school’s dean, Dr. Chris Gallavin, has noted, the justice gap in New Zealand is “off the charts;” the pro bono dimension of this requirement will contribute to addressing this gap. In addition, The PBEye notes that pro bono work by students can develop them into higher quality recruits for employers, armed with practical experience such as schedule management and interacting with real world clients, a view Dr. Gallavin shares. Based on the “Harvard model,” graduation ceremonies at the University of Canterbury Law School will formally recognize students in two higher tiers: those who do more than 400 hours and those who do more than 750 hours of pro bono work. Such significant hourly targets set high expectations for students.

The PBEye is excited to follow this new development in pro bono work and its implications for increasing pro bono service in New Zealand.

July 3, 2014

Mapping Core Competencies

Is your firm making the most of its pro bono program in developing your attorneys’ skills? Are you strategically linking your pro bono efforts with professional development opportunities and performance evaluations? Although the nexus between pro bono and professional development has long been acknowledged, largely in an informal way, many firms have come to recognize that the hands-on experience that pro bono work provides can be invaluable. Developmental pro bono assignments, or targeting pro bono work to cultivate skills, are particularly effective ways for attorneys to develop and demonstrate many of the “hard” and “soft” skills required for advancement.

The Law Firm Pro Bono Project has long advocated that the strategic linking of pro bono assignments with professional development opportunities and thoughtful performance evaluations offers tremendous value to both law firm pro bono supporters and professional development leadership. To advance these efforts, we designed a toolkit, Talent Management Trends: Law Firm Core Competencies and Pro Bono, which offers guidance and tips for using pro bono opportunities as part of any core competency and performance evaluation system. Visit our Resource Clearinghouse to download the publication, which is free for Law Firm Project Members and available to all others for purchase.

The toolkit is designed as a resource for law firm partners and professional development staff, including training, assignment, staffing, and evaluations professionals and committees, who should be mindful of how they can utilize developmental pro bono opportunities to boost their implementation of core competencies and performance evaluations in a cost-effective manner. Likewise, it is a resource for pro bono responsible staff, who should be aligning their outreach and intake efforts to build core competencies and satisfy attorney development goals. The successful integration of pro bono and professional development can serve the dual good of assisting indigent clients and promoting access to justice, while fostering the growth and training of firm attorneys.

A missing piece of the pro bono/core competency puzzle has been clearly articulated guidance for law firms and individual attorneys explaining how specific pro bono matters translate into opportunities to develop particular skills and core competencies. This information is now available, as earlier this year our friends at the New York City Bar’s Committee on Pro Bono and Legal Services published its Pro Bono Competencies Analysis. Created with input from many lawyers who practice at law firms, legal service providers, corporations, and law schools, this chart maps competencies and skills gained through specific pro bono matters. Twenty-seven legal skills (spanning litigation, bankruptcy, and transactional attorneys) and 50 common pro bono practice areas are listed, with assigned “scores” to represent how often each skill is utilized in each practice area. For example, the chart shows that pro bono work on a child support case nearly always provides attorneys with opportunities for client interactions and court appearances, and prisoners’ rights cases almost always involve document drafting. This information can be leveraged to pursue pro bono matters that foster particular skills and experiences.

We encourage attorneys and professional development staff to use pro bono opportunities to foster growth and training while increasing access to justice and helping those in need. How does your firm use pro bono to cultivate attorneys’ skills? Has your firm mapped competencies and skills specific to pro bono matters? Send us any materials you’ve developed and/or leave us a comment.

Hat tip to PBI intern Lori Panosyan for her help with this post.

July 1, 2014

Video: WDPB – Saralyn Cohen, Shearman & Sterling

Pro bono can help attorneys feel they are a part of a larger community, whether it’s in their firm or in their own neighborhood. This week, we hear from Saralyn Cohen, Pro Bono Counsel and Director of Pro Bono at Shearman & Sterling* as she describes the many benefits of doing pro bono.

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

    Older Posts >