The PBEye

Pro Bono As We See It

February 2012

February 28, 2012

CPBO Pro Bono Partner Award Nominations

It’s that time again — submit your nominations for the 2012 CPBO Pro Bono Partner Award.  The Partner Award recognizes innovative team approaches to pro bono work involving in-house legal departments, law firms, and public interest groups.  Recipients of the award must include at least one legal department and one or more law firms and/or public interest group partners.  CPBO will present the award at the Pro Bono Institute Annual Dinner on November 15, 2012, in New York.

CPBO presented last year’s award to Verizon Communications Inc.**, in partnership with DLA Piper LLP*†, for their collaborative effort to address veterans, education, and domestic violence issues through pro bono work.  Previous awardees include Accenture plc**, Caterpillar Inc.**, and Merck & Co., Inc.** in partnership with Baker & McKenzie*† and PILnet; Aetna Inc.**with Lawyers for Children America and Bet Tzedek Legal Services in cooperation with Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP*†; The Williams Companies, Inc.** in partnership with Hall, Estill, Hardwick, Gable, Golden & Nelson, P.C., and Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma; 3M Company** with Children’s Law Center of Minnesota; Microsoft Corporation** and Volunteer Advocates for Immigrant Justice with collaborating law firms Davis Wright Tremaine LLP*†, Dorsey & Whitney LLP*†, Heller Ehrman LLP, Holland & Knight LLP*†, Perkins Coie LLP*†, Preston Gates & Ellis LLP, and Riddell Williams P.S.

Nominations are due April 27, 2012, and may be submitted either electronically or in hard copy to CPBO.  For more information about the award or to request a nomination form, please contact Eve Runyon at 202.729.6699.

* 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 ChallengeSM

February 28, 2012

In Memoriam: Michael A. Rothenberg

The death of our friend Michael Rothenberg, executive director of New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI), is a profound loss for his family, friends, NYLPI, and for the entire pro bono community.  Michael was a remarkable lawyer and “an inspirational leader in the New York City social justice community.”  He excelled at community-based organizing and leveraging the pro bono potential of New York City’s major law firms.  His visionary passion for social change ran the gamut from promoting the civil rights of individuals with disabilities to fighting for access to quality health care for all people to advocating for the right to a healthy and toxic-free environment.

As a close friend eloquently recalled, “Michael was the kind of person we all strive to be: a fearless advocate for those less fortunate, a wonderful role model to his young children, and a dedicated friend.  This is a great loss for everyone who was touched by him.”

May Michael’s memory serve to inspire us to build on his legacy and continue the hard work of trying to make the world a better and more just place.

February 27, 2012

VIDEO: WDPB – Hon. Robert Katzmann

One of the best changes in pro bono we’ve seen over the last 15 years is the increasing engagement of government in the push for more pro bono.  The PBEye particularly grateful to hear pro bono advocacy from the bench, considering judges are in a great position to assess the legal needs of their jurisdictions.

This week hear from U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit Judge Robert A. Katzmann on why lawyers should do pro bono.

February 27, 2012

Pro Bono to Protect Democracy

The 2012 election season is in full swing.  Public confidence in the integrity and fairness of elections is one of the most fundamental elements of a strong democracy.  As The PBEye previously reported, elections and the legal issues that surround them are fertile grounds for lawyers, law firms, and legal departments looking to develop or expand their pro bono practice.  Pro bono lawyers are at the forefront of legal efforts during and in-between major national election cycles to cure legal flaws in the election system which threaten the accuracy and legitimacy of the voting process.

As we continue to pay greater attention as the campaign unfolds, the Law Firm Pro Bono Project is pleased to announce the release of the 2012 edition of its publication Facing the Challenges of Citizenship: Election-Related Pro Bono Opportunities.  This publication is available free of charge to Law Firm Pro Bono Project Member firms and to all others for purchase.  To obtain a copy, please contact Law Firm Project Assistant, Christine Sutherland.  If your firm is not yet a member, you can enjoy the many benefits, such as access to all publications free of charge, by becoming one today!

Next month at the Pro Bono Institute Annual Conference, we’ll be exploring how pro bono lawyers can play an important role on Election Day and all year round, including emerging issues, how to get started, and opportunities for collaboration.  Don’t miss the session Pro Bono in Practice: Elections (Thursday, March 29, 2:45 to 3:45 p.m.), which will feature representatives from leading public interest organizations working in this area, including The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

If you have questions or still need to register for the Conference, please send an email to or call 202.973.8720.  We hope to see you there!

February 24, 2012

Bolstering Pro Bono with Public Interest Funding

This summer, 46 (and counting) second year Harvard Law summer associates will contribute a day’s salary to support a classmate working without pay at a public interest organization.  The initiative, aptly called One Day’s Work, exists at top law schools across the country.  Two Harvard students recently revamped Harvard’s program, and it is quickly gaining traction on campus.

The project’s instant success at Harvard reinforces what The PBEye already knows to be true — many law students, even those who aspire to careers in the private sector, are committed to giving back to their communities while in law school.  Anecdotally, generation Y or Millenial lawyers care a great deal about pro bono.  In fact, a number of PBI stakeholders report tremendous interest in pro bono among recent law school graduate recruits.  Recent grads often inquire about pro bono opportunities during interviews, and have even reported selecting an employer based on the strength of its pro bono program.  Further, law firms like Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP* and legal departments like Hewlett-Packard Company** advertise their pro bono efforts to attract young prospective hires.

The PBEye thinks One Day’s Work is a great program.  The combination of donating both money and time is powerful, particularly in light of recent funding cuts for legal aid.  Lawyers’ capacity to do pro bono can be enhanced or limited depending on the availability of a public interest organization to screen clients, conduct intake, offer training, provide expertise, and, in the case of in-house attorneys, provide malpractice insurance.  We are delighted to see law students providing more pro bono than ever and giving to their classmates, whose work makes pro bono possible for lawyers at firms and departments.

Are you a law student committed to public service and pro bono?  PBI hires law student interns each summerDrop us a line if you’re interested in joining our team this summer.

* 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 ChallengeSM

February 22, 2012

Calling In-House Attorneys and Staff

Do you have plans for March 28-30?  Why not join CPBO at the Pro Bono Institute Annual Conference in Washington, D.C.?  This year’s event promises numerous informative and engaging sessions.  The in-house track of the conference kicks off on Wednesday, March 28, with a plenary session followed by two nuts and bolts sessions—one for those starting or reviving a pro bono program (In-House Pro Bono: The Basics) and one for more experienced pro bono practitioners (Corporate Pro Bono 2.0: Momentum and Growth in Mature Programs).  Both sessions will feature a panel discussion followed by smaller group discussions to drill down on the topics covered during the panel discussion. 

In-House Pro Bono: The Basics
Designed for legal departments that have recently created or restructured a formal pro bono program, or are in the process of doing so, this session offers a brief but comprehensive orientation to the basics of designing, guiding, implementing, or administering a successful in-house legal department pro bono program.  Topics covered will include getting started, securing management support, drafting policies, and identifying opportunities and partners, among others.

Corporate Pro Bono 2.0: Momentum and Growth in Mature Programs
This session provides representatives from legal departments with formally structured, longer-term pro bono programs an opportunity to discuss issues of common concern and learn about exciting new ideas and approaches to in-house pro bono.  It will consider what in-house pro bono could and should look like as the sophistication level of in-house pro bono grows.  Topics of discussion will include integrating pro bono and corporate social responsibility, developing longer term more sophisticated projects, and global pro bono.  Discussion topics will include undertaking global pro bono work, developing signature projects, creating partnerships and collaborations, integrating pro bono with your company’s philanthropic efforts, and measuring the impact of your pro bono work.

For an up-to-date list of sessions, click here.  If you have questions, please send us an email.  To register for the Annual Conference, click here.

February 20, 2012


We at The PBEye think that one of the best feelings in the world is helping someone in need. So we also think that lawyers who do pro bono are some of the luckiest people in the world because they get to do just that.

This week hear from Maria Odom, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc., on why lawyers should do pro bono.

February 16, 2012


The 2012 PBI Annual Conference is rapidly approaching and The PBEye is excited to provide a preview of the public interest organizations that will be featured at the Pro Bono Expo Lunch on Thursday, March 29.  There are a variety of prominent organizations hosting tables at lunch, and their representatives are looking forward to sharing emerging issues, strategies, and developments in their topical areas, and providing information on the types of pro bono opportunities available to your firm or legal department.  This is a unique opportunity to network and develop productive relationships with many public interest organizations from across the U.S. and around the world.

Examples of the diverse organizations that have signed on to host tables this year include:

ACCION International

Bet Tzedek

Medical-Legal Partnership

National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty

Online registration for the 2012 Annual Conference closes March 2, so be sure to register now to take advantage of this unique networking opportunity!  We hope to see you there.

February 15, 2012

CPBO Spotlight On: The Williams Companies

The Williams Companies*, a nationwide energy company based in Tulsa, Okla., has a strong pro bono program.  The program’s success is due in large part to the support and encouragement of its past and present general counsels.

Craig Rainey, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, The Williams Companies

Elder Care
Adopting one of the most efficient pro bono service models, the Williams legal department has committed to handling all of Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc.’s (Oklahoma Legal Aid) cases concerning estate planning and other end-of-life issues for the elderly poor in its community.  

For several years, the University of Tulsa Law School operated a clinic providing free legal services to persons suffering from poverty and 60 years old or older living in Tulsa, Creek, and Osage counties in northeast Oklahoma.  The clinic, called the Older Americans Law Project, has served hundreds of clients over nine years.  When the University discontinued the clinic, Williams’ legal department stepped in to sustain the clinic and recruited one of its outside firms and Tulsa’s largest law firm, Hall, Estill, Hardwick, Gable, Golden & Nelson, P.C., to help.  Initially, 40 lawyers and paralegals volunteered.  It was the single largest influx of volunteers in Oklahoma Legal Aid’s history. 

Williams’ pro bono committee began by recruiting a local expert attorney and two district court judges to teach the volunteers about a variety of elder law issues.  Williams videotaped the training sessions and housed them on Oklahoma Legal Aid’s website to be accessed by subsequent volunteers.  James Bender, senior vice president and general counsel at the time, took the first case, while  current Senior Vice President and General Counsel Craig Rainey took the second. 

Typical cases for elderly poor clients involve preparation of wills or trusts, real or personal property transactions, advanced medical directives, powers of attorney, or guardianships.  Volunteers occasionally encounter other needs such as consumer problems or issues concerning government benefits. 

During 2009 and 2010, the legal department not only sustained the program, but added more volunteers and significantly expanded the scope of the program.  More than two-thirds of the company’s Tulsa-based attorneys participate in the program along with a majority of paralegals and several administrative assistants. 

Guardian Ad Litem Cases
In addition to work on behalf of the elderly poor, the Williams legal department has undertaken guardian ad litem cases representing Oklahoma Legal Aid clients in garnishment proceedings.  The work includes cases such as children seeking guardianship of elderly parents, grandparents seeking guardianship of grandchildren, or guardianship concerning the financial support of a minor.  Several of the department’s paralegals and other non-lawyers have taken on guardian ad litem work, since the court may appoint non-lawyers to that role. 

Courthouse Assistance Program
Together with Hall Estill and Oklahoma Legal Aid, the Williams legal department has worked with the Tulsa County judiciary to establish a Courthouse Assistance Program.  The objective of the program is for a volunteer attorney to be available at the Forcible Entry and Detainer (FED) Docket to meet with unrepresented parties in the courtroom after the docket is called and, if necessary, to provide representation at the hearings or conferences which take place that same day.  One common case that arises on the FED Docket involves landlords who are trying to evict and/or recover rent from tenants. 

New Collaboration between Old Colleagues
On January 1 of this year, Williams spun off its exploration and production business into a new entity – WPX Energy, Inc. As a result, a number of the lawyers who had worked on the Legal Aid projects at Williams are now in-house at WPX Energy, including Bender.  The two general counsels, Rainey and Bender, and their staffs have implemented processes to enable both legal departments to collaborate on future cases.  The two companies hope to use the new model as a means to recruit other legal departments into the effort.

*denotes a Signatory to the Corporate Pro Bono ChallengeSM

February 14, 2012

Fall in Love with Pro Bono

Love is in the air, and The PBEye has been stung by Cupid’s arrow.  Our friends at Equal Justice Works sent us an adorable Valentine last week, highlighting “some things we love. . .”  Among their choices, “equal rights,” “assisting veterans,” “pro bono,” and “justice for all.”  This got us thinking . . . in this season of love, what do we love? 

We love the way that lawyers believe that they can and should find time to use their unique skills to impact the greater good.

We love how pro bono is helping to break new ground on critical issues like nutrition, access to healthcare, and the environment (among others), proving that the law can be an important force for public good.

We love that other professions are taking a cue from lawyers, and that the tradition of skilled service is migrating to other fields and involving non-lawyers.

And we love the way that pro bono creates a sense of community, both within law firms and corporate legal departments, and in the larger communities in which they serve.

Happy Valentine’s Day from the Pro Bono Institute!

What do you love about pro bono?  Leave a comment and tell us about it!

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