The PBEye

Pro Bono As We See It
May 4, 2012

Guest Blog: ExxonMobil’s Conference Experience

I really enjoyed this year’s PBI Annual Conference. It is such a great opportunity to connect with other professionals who care deeply about pro bono. I think it is very helpful to discuss areas of concern and challenges with others in the field that who can provide the benefit of their experiences. Our program at ExxonMobil in Northern Virginia is still fairly new and I appreciate the assistance that I always receive from the other participants at the Conference.

At this year’s meeting I was asked to participate in a panel on the topic of “Time-Limited Pro Bono.”. The idea for the session is that some attorneys would likely be more willing to participate in pro bono if they had shorter, finite opportunities that weren’t open-ended time commitments like some pro bono work can be. For example, attorneys that who have not previously done pro bono or younger attorneys could especially benefit from these types of opportunities. Also on the panel with me were Karen Grisez of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP* in Washington, D.C., and James Bishop with Catholic Charities, also in D.C.

At ExxonMobil’s Northern Virginia office, we participate in two projects that are fairly limited in their time commitment so I shared with the group attending our session a brief overview of our Wills Clinics and our Domestic Violence Attorney-of-the-Day programs. We participate in both programs in partnership with Hunton & Williams LLP* and Legal Services of Northern Virginia (LSNV), and both programs have afforded our Northern Virginia ExxonMobil lawyers, paralegals, and support staff the opportunity to provide meaningful community service by way of short, time-limited projects.

Our Wills Clinics last only one day, with the ExxonMobil and Hunton & Williams attorneys and paralegals meeting initially with the LSNV clients to assess needs and gather information. While the clients have lunch, the legal professionals draft the legal documents that were requested. When the clients return from lunch they review the documents and any needed final revisions made. We execute, notarize, and make copies of the documents for the clients and send them on their way.

Each month a volunteer lawyer from ExxonMobil is paired with a volunteer lawyer from Hunton & Williams, and supported by a paralegal from one of the offices to participate in LSNV’s Domestic Violence Attorney-of-the-Day program. About two weeks in advance of the hearing date, our professionals receive the in-take files for each of the LSNV domestic violence clients (usually from one to five). The attorneys and paralegals meet with the clients to gather evidence and prepare arguments for a protective order and other, specified ancillary remedies, as appropriate.

Our attorneys and paralegals have responded very favorably to our programs and I was pleased to be able to share the ideas with others.

Karen and James also shared with the group a number of excellent ideas for time-limited pro bono, and then we had time for the entire group to share ideas and ask questions. All in all it was a very collaborative session and I was glad to have had the opportunity to participate.

Andrew Fisher is counsel, Fuels Marketing Law Section at Exxon Mobil Corporation.

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