The PBEye

Pro Bono As We See It
July 28, 2016

The Power of “Defaults”

defaults picTraditionally, economic theory has treated people as wholly rational actors – when presented with a choice, we choose the utility-maximizing option, regardless of what the default or status quo might be. Recent social science research has shown that real people don’t always act so rationally; we are influenced by social pressures. One of the most powerful norms that drive behavior are default rules. As Cass Sunstein describes them, defaults are invisible “nudges.” They don’t force us to choose one way or another, but they can make us lean in a particular direction.

The impact that defaults can have on individual decision-making and combatting inertia can be seen in a variety of settings. Just over a year ago, Oregon became the first state to adopt automatic voter registration, which makes registering to vote the default at the state’s Driver and Motor Vehicle Services Division (DMV) unless you affirmatively opt out of registration. While the difference may seem slight, more than 50,000 citizens have already been added to the rolls. It’s still unclear how the law impacted the number of citizens who voted in Oregon’s 2016 presidential primary election, but the efficacy of default rules and opt-out systems has been demonstrated in a range of settings. For example, companies that have experimented with default settings for 401(k) retirement plans found that, when the system’s default option is to participate, the percentage of employees contributing to 401(k) plans is significantly higher than with an opt-in system. Similarly, in Europe, some countries have adopted an opt-out system for organ donation, in which a deceased person is presumed to wish to donate her organs unless she affirmatively opted out of donating. Rates of organ donation in these countries are substantially higher than European nations with an opt-in system, even accounting for cultural and religious differences.

Should pro bono work be the “default” for every lawyer? The current pro bono distribution system spends an in inordinate amount of time and resources recruiting individual attorneys. We can envision a system in which courts, legal services, and pro bono programs reverse those operating assumptions. Without mandating pro bono, could we consider all lawyers to be volunteers, unless they specifically opt-out of participation? This fundamental shift in culture and perspective would require us to create and implement more streamlined and efficient systems for distributing pro bono work and would hold the promise of significantly greater attorney participation. It would also require more resources for the public interest groups and courts that administer such systems.

We want to hear from you. Could the power of defaults be harnessed effectively to increase pro bono efforts, impact, and access to justice? How?

Hat tip to PBI intern CJ Rydberg for his help with this post.

July 27, 2016

ACC Chicago Expands Its Pro Bono Offerings

For the fChicago2irst time, ACC Chicago, along with co-hosts CPBO, DLA Piper*†, and The Law Project held a CPBO Clinic in a Box® Program – Select Topic on July 14 at DLA Piper. ACC Chicago has hosted the CPBO Clinic in a Box® Program – Legal Audit for many years and was excited to offer a new opportunity to its members that could re-engage previous attendees and enable volunteers to provide clients with completed documents.

The new version was a hit! Volunteers who have attended many years, alongside first-time attendees, met with representatives of 13 local nonprofit organizations to review and revise their bylaws and draft or revise conflicts of interest policies.

To prepare for the clinic, the volunteers began the day with an hour and a half training session led by attorneys from DLA Piper that offered a deep dive into bylaws and conflict of interest policies for nonprofit organizations. One volunteer discussed the usefulness of the select topic by saying, “It was a great opportunity for professional development and to help out in the community.”  Volunteers came from a wide variety of legal departments across the area, including Aon Corporation**, Discover Financial Services**, McDonald’s Corporation**, and Verizon Communications Inc.**.


Through providing legal assistance to these nonprofits, the volunteers have helped ensure the services they offer their communities — ranging from support for families in the child welfare system to local arts programming — can be sustained. One client summed up the importance of the clinic by saying, “This clinic was so valuable to our organization – thank you!”  Congratulations and thank you to the 39 volunteers who aided not only the 13 nonprofits present, but the estimated 111,200 clients they serve.

ACC chapters and legal departments interested in hosting a similar clinic, can learn more at Clinic in a Box® program and read about previous clinics here. To discuss in-house pro bono, please contact CPBO.

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

**denotes a Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory


July 25, 2016

It’s Pro Bono Podcast Monday

time_manage_cFeeling overwhelmed at work and need some tips on how to manage your time? Tune in to the Law Firm Pro Bono Project’s podcast, the Pro Bono Happy Hour, for a special episode about time management for lawyers and legal professionals.

Don’t miss our interview with Meg Spencer Dixon of Spencer Consulting. Meg talks about why time management is critical and offers practical tips and techniques for how lawyers and legal professionals can better manage their time. Check out the episode and learn how you can take ownership of your workload to maximize your time for pro bono and promoting access to justice.

Podcast Box LFPSubscribe 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. Have you rated us on iTunes yet? Would you consider doing it now? The podcast is also available on YouTube. Links to all of our episodes can be found here. Join the conversation today!

Listen along and let us know what you think. Send your comments, thoughts, feedback, questions, and suggestions to Be warned: we might just read them on the air.

July 21, 2016

Don’t Miss Out on the Benefits of Membership

pbi 20More than 50 firms have already become Law Firm Pro Bono Project Members for 2016-2017. These firms have publicly demonstrated their leadership and commitment to pro bono service, and we are grateful for their support. Submit your enrollment form before September 1 to receive a 10 percent discount.

As a Member Firm, you have free access to the Law Firm Project’s Resource Clearinghouse, which is a one-stop destination for publications, best practices, model policies, and other materials related to law firm pro bono. Member Firms can also download items from the Members-only section of the Resource Clearinghouse. The growing catalog comprises PBI’s research and expert analysis with additional materials from trusted and verified sources. Whether you’re looking for attorney interest survey models, examples of pro bono policies from peers firms, or sample pro bono annual reports, the Resource Clearinghouse can provide valuable tools to help you strengthen your firm’s pro bono program.

Click here for more information about other benefits of Membership. Please contact Law Firm Project Assistant Elysse DeRita, if you have any questions.

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

July 14, 2016

Giving Time and Giving Money

PBI’s Law Firm Pro Bono Project recently released its annual Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® Report, which examines the pro bono activities of Challenge Signatories.

giving picWe’ve previously written about attorney pro bono participation and pro bono time devoted to those of limited means. Another notable highlight from 2015 was the increase in charitable giving to legal services organizations. The average firm donation last year was $460,660, which represents a 27.2 percent increase over the average firm donation in 2014, which was $362,217.

We applaud those firms and attorneys who not only gave their time but also contributed their dollars to local and other legal services organizations. Even if they will never on their on their own, absent government and other support, comprise full funding for legal services, firm contributions are critical to maintaining an effective pipeline and support network for legal services programs, and, in return for law firm pro bono efforts.

Check out the complete Challenge Report, including analysis of the data, new information regarding firm size and pro bono, detailed graphs, and more. And stay tuned to The PBEye for additional highlights from this year’s Report. Also, check out the Law Firm Project’s discussion of the state of pro bono on its podcast, the Pro Bono Happy Hour.

If your firm of 50 or more lawyers would like to join the Challenge, please contact Law Firm Pro Bono Project Assistant Elysse DeRita.

July 7, 2016

Upcoming Webinar: Pro Bono in Practice – Elections

ballotWhat do John Legend, John Oliver, and The PBEye have in common? We are all interested in voting rights and the upcoming election. As the 2016 presidential election captures our attention and November 8 gets closer, one thing is certain: many eligible voters will have trouble casting ballots on Election Day. Voting is at the heart of our democracy; yet our voting system remains imperfect and deeply flawed. A number of prominent civil rights and public interest groups are leading non-partisan, critical efforts to ensure that every eligible voter can vote and that every proper vote is counted.

Join us on July 28 at 12:30 p.m. ET for “The Challenges of Citizenship: Election-Related Pro Bono Opportunities (Pro Bono in Practice).” This timely webinar, hosted in conjunction with West LegalEdcenter, is part of our “Best of the 2016 PBI Annual Conference” series of webinars, which reprise and supplement select sessions from the Conference.

Pro bono lawyers play an important role at all levels of the voting rights and reform processes on Election Day and all year round. The following panelists will discuss emerging issues, how to get started, opportunities for collaboration, and a range of pro bono delivery systems, from research projects to impact litigation to policy advocacy work to Election Protection activities.

  • Ezra Rosenberg, The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

CLE credit is available in many states. Registration is free for anyone at a Law Firm Pro Bono Project Member Law Firm. Please contact Law Firm Pro Bono Project Assistant Elysse DeRita for the promotional code or for information on becoming a Member of the Law Firm Project. Interested in-house counsel should contact CPBO Project Assistant Virginia Lyon 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

July 5, 2016

Guest Blog: Legal Pro Bono at Salesforce

SalesforceWe at The PBEye are inspired every day by the Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatories.  In celebration of the 10th anniversary of the launch of the CPBO Challenge® initiative, we are showcasing some of their projects and letting them inspire you too.

At Salesforce**, giving back is part of our DNA. Through our 1-1-1 model of integrated philanthropy, all employees are given seven days of volunteer time off (VTO) that they can use toward any cause they are passionate about. The legal team actively participated in VTO events, using our hours to volunteer at organizations like SF Food Bank and the San Francisco Zoo. While we were active volunteers, there was a hunger to help out with skills-based volunteering – to use our legal skills to help the less fortunate have access to justice, spanning the legal departments of both Salesforce and, the philanthropic arm of the company.

With the support of the Salesforce General Counsel Amy Weaver, we got started quickly building a program. The Association of Corporate Counsel** quickly led me to Eve Runyon, then-director of Corporate Pro Bono, who provided a host of information, networking opportunities, and help starting the program. After talking to Eve, I went about by getting support within the department, forming a Pro Bono Committee and surveying the lawyers. Armed with feedback on our team’s interest areas, we jumped at the first opportunity to partner with the San Francisco Bar Association’s Justice and Diversity Center, along with other lawyers from firms and veteran services providers, to staff a one-day free legal and social services clinic for U.S. Veterans. From there, we continued to find events we could do at least quarterly, slowly moving from a headquarter-centric approach to a broader one that could include our global offices.

One of the most interesting projects we have worked on to date was completed globally, with contributions from lawyers in Paris, London, Toronto, San Francisco, and New York. The Salesforce legal teams partnered with Baker & McKenzie*† to draft a toolkit for judges in South Asia adjudicating terrorism cases in their national courts. The toolkit was designed to support the effective adjudication of terrorism cases by judges from the member states of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation. The project was a collaborative partnership between the two organizations with a truly global scope resulting in one of the strongest pro bono efforts the team has undertaken to date. The resulting toolkit will be used as a template to be adapted by judges and judicial academies in other regions throughout the world.

The legal pro bono program has really blossomed at Salesforce over the last two years and continues to be a popular way to give back to the communities in which the lawyers work and live on a global basis. You can read about our latest project in Brussels at our blog.

Shanti Ariker is SVP & General Counsel of 

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

June 30, 2016

For the Public Good

limitedmeansPBI’s Law Firm Pro Bono Project recently released its annual Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® Report, which examines the pro bono activities Challenge Signatories.

Last week, we shared our optimistic view of pro bono and focused on overall attorney participation. Another notable highlight from 2015 is the increase in the percentage of total pro bono time committed to those of limited means and the organizations serving them. The Challenge asks firms 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” (Principle 3). In 2015, 70.9 percent of all pro bono time was devoted to those of limited means and the organizations serving them, which is up from 65.4 percent in 2014. We are pleased to report that this important Challenge goal is being met. Furthermore, this data helps expose as myth the perception that large law firms are not adequately supporting legal aid programs and that they should do more before other funding streams, particularly public ones, are tapped.

Check out the complete Challenge Report, including analysis of the data, new information regarding firm size and pro bono, detailed graphs, and more. And stay tuned to The PBEye for additional highlights from this year’s Report. Also, check out the Law Firm Project’s recent discussion of the state of pro bono on its podcast, the Pro Bono Happy Hour.

If your firm of 50 or more lawyers would like to join the Challenge, please contact Law Firm Pro Bono Project Assistant Elysse DeRita.

June 28, 2016

CPBO at the 2016 ACC Annual Meeting


The PBEye is happy to announce that the CPBO team will be traveling to San Francisco for the 2016 ACC Annual Meeting. At the meeting, held October 16 – 19, you can get your recommended dose of in-house pro bono at the following events:

Clinic in a Box® Program Training  Sunday, October 16, 3:00 – 4:30 p.m.
Is your ACC chapter or legal department interested in co-hosting a Clinic in a Box® program? Join CPBO and be trained to co-host a Clinic in a Box® program, a half-day clinic that provides in-house counsel the opportunity to advise nonprofit organizations or small businesses while earning CLE credit. (Note that registration is required and there is a separate fee to participate in this program.)

Clinic in a Box® Program  Monday, October 17, 9:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Earn CLE credit while providing pro bono services to nonprofit organizations that are in great need of legal assistance. In the first half of the clinic, law firm experts train participants, who during the second half meet in teams with representatives of San Francisco area nonprofits to provide legal advice. Training materials and information about the nonprofit clients are provided to participants in advance. (Note that pre-registration is required to participate.)

Pro Bono Breakfast  Tuesday, October 18, 7:45 – 9:00 a.m.
Meet and network with other in-house counsel interested in pro bono, and learn about pro bono trends and best practices. Please contact CPBO Project Assistant Virginia Lyon in advance if you plan to attend the breakfast.

Session: CLOs on the Intersection of Pro Bono and CSR  Tuesday, October 18, 2:30 – 4:00 p.m.
A panel of CLOs will lead an interactive session exploring the intersection of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and pro bono, with a particular focus on how legal department leaders can develop pro bono programs to complement their companies’ CSR efforts and increase impact.

Meet with CPBO  Sunday, October 16 – Wednesday, October 19 
CPBO looks forward to meeting with attendees when they have free time between programs. If you are interested in discussing with CPBO options and initiatives for yourself, your legal department, or your chapter, please contact CPBO to set up a time that is convenient for you. Or, stop by the CPBO booth in the exhibit hall to see new resources and chat with the CPBO team.

To find out more about the events listed above, please contact CPBO, and for the complete ACC Annual Meeting schedule, click here. We look forward to seeing you in San Francisco!

June 23, 2016

The State of Law Firm Pro Bono

ParticipationPBI’s Law Firm Pro Bono Project recently released its annual Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® Report, which examines the pro bono activities of firms that are Signatories to the Challenge. Law firm pro bono in 2015 can be characterized by one word: optimism. One hundred twenty-nine Signatories to the Challenge collectively reported increases in total pro bono hours, pro bono hours for those of limited means, attorney participation rates, and charitable giving to legal services organizations.

Among the many highlights from this year’s Report, the percentage of attorneys participating in pro bono increased to 74.6 percent in 2015 from to 73.0 percent in 2014, marking the second consecutive year of growth. When the Challenge was implemented in 1995, one fundamental goal was to encourage more than half of a firm’s attorneys to participate in pro bono, which at the time was ambitious. This year’s data shows that firms are greatly surpassing that original standard. It’s time to set new goals and strive for even higher participation rates. As always, we are grateful to our Signatories for their dedication and leading the way in pro bono service.

Check out the complete Challenge Report, including analysis of the data, new information regarding firm size and pro bono, detailed graphs, and more. And stay tuned to The PBEye for additional highlights from this year’s Challenge Report. Also, check out the Law Firm Project’s discussion of highlights from the Report on its podcast, the Pro Bono Happy Hour.

If your firm of 50 or more lawyers would like to join the Challenge, please contact Law Firm Pro Bono Project Assistant Eva Richardson.

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