The PBEye

Pro Bono As We See It
April 20, 2012

Annual Conference: In-House Highlights

For many years in-house pro bono was a new concept at a handful of legal departments and an unknown concept to most.  Now the departments span the continuum from novice to experienced and mature.  On March 28, pro bono leaders from many of these legal departments gathered in Washington, D.C., for the in-house track at the PBI Annual Conference, the only global gathering designed specifically to address the interests and issues of in-house pro bono.  Hosted by CPBO, the in-house track provided dedicated programming for attendees, whether just starting a pro bono program in their legal department or growing and expanding their existing program.

Engaging everyone, the in-house track kicked off with an opening plenary focused on the question of mandatory pro bono (you can weigh in on the topic in a poll on CPBO’s new website, here) and integrating pro bono into the culture of a legal department.  Then, to address the specific interests and needs of departments in the different stages of development, attendees broke off into two sessions. 

The first session, “In-House Pro Bono: The Basics,” was designed for legal departments seeking to formalize or reinvigorate their pro bono efforts.  Panelists shared their experience with starting or re-structuring a pro bono program, including building infrastructure and launching their pro bono programs. 

The other session, “Corporate Pro Bono 2.0: Momentum and Growth in Mature Programs,” focused on issues facing robust existing programs, including:

  • signature projects;
  • global pro bono;
  • partnerships and collaborations;
  • coordination with the organization’s community service and corporate social responsibility efforts; and
  • metrics.

The formal portion of the in-house track ended with a “Roundtable Discussion of Hot Topics in In-House Pro Bono,” during which attendees broke up into six groups of various experience levels to discuss topics of interest and to learn from one another.  Participants then joined their peers to continue their conversations and during a networking dinner.

While the in-house track wrapped up that night, attendees were just getting started.  As a part of the 2012 PBI Annual Conference, in-house attendees joined with participants from law firms and public interest organizations to attend a wide variety of sessions and events over the following two days. 

For those who missed the in-house track this year — not to worry, the 2013 PBI Annual Conference will be held March 14-16, at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, D.C.  We invite you to join us and the expanding list of legal departments engaged in in-house pro bono. For more information about CPBO or the in-house track, please contact Eve Runyon, director of CPBO, or visit