The PBEye

Pro Bono As We See It
June 25, 2012

Marketplace of Pro Bono Ideas Part 2

The PBEye reported last week on the innovative projects featured at the two “Marketplace of Ideas” sessions during the 2012 Pro Bono Institute Conference.  Here are a few more of the projects highlighted during these exciting sessions:

Bay Area Corporate Pro Bono Co-Op
Lisa Dewey from DLA Piper*† discussed the innovative Bay Area Corporate Pro Bono Co-Op, a collaborative platform designed to expand pro bono work done by in-house lawyers.   The initial idea for the Co-Op came from an informal group of in-house counsel who wanted to do more pro bono work but weren’t in a position to hire or dedicate a full-time staff person to managing the program.   After preliminary discussions with in-house counsel about their needs, DLA Piper decided that they could provide the necessary support to enable the legal departments to do more pro bono work.

Based on the legal departments’ interests and experience, the Co-Op chose to focus on housing, a major problem in California.  An associate from DLA Piper, whose commercial practice is in real estate but spends a lot of time doing pro bono work, dedicates 25 to 50 percent of her time coordinating projects for the Co-Op.  DLA Piper also provides administrative support, acts as a liaison to legal service providers, and works to set up, schedule, and administer trainings and clinics.  In-house attorneys are able to decide what kind of cases they wish to handle and whether to partner with an attorney from the firm.  There are six in-house departments currently participating, and many more in the process of joining.

Criminal Defense Pro Bono Project
Marlene Halpern from The Legal Aid Society shared how the organization creatively integrated pro bono into their criminal defense practice.   After the revision of the Rockefeller Drug Laws in 2009, many offenders were able to appeal their lengthy sentences and Legal Aid found themselves with more than 200 new cases, without additional funding and in much need of pro bono assistance.  What started with one attorney volunteering to gain trial experience, transformed into a partnership between Legal Aid and approximately 10 law firms.   Many of the firms, which have strong white-collar and securities practices, were looking for criminal defense training opportunities for their junior associates and felt this pro bono project was just the answer.

Volunteer lawyers allocate a third of their time over a nine month period to the Criminal Defense Pro Bono Project or serve as full-time externs for up to a year, providing resources to assist with Legal Aid’s large criminal case load.   Under the mentorship of senior Legal Aid trial counsel, participating attorneys work arraignments, handle misdemeanor cases, are responsible for engaging in research, conducting criminal investigations, drafting motions and memoranda, preparing witnesses, and conducting hearings and trials on cases to which they are assigned with their mentors.   They also serve as part of a litigation team on complex felony matters.

Social Sector Finance
Rene Kathawala from Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP*† addressed the challenges of finding sophisticated pro bono opportunities for transactional lawyers and how the firm developed a Social Sector Finance practice group to satisfy the need.

Using the same aggressive business development techniques that apply to developing revenue-generated opportunities (attending conferences, cultivating speaking opportunities, offering CLE sessions, preparing newsletters and client alerts), Orrick has rapidly developed expertise and a commitment to represent organizations involved in social sector finance, a global movement that seeks to make impact investments in, and provide financial opportunity to disadvantaged and financially undeserved communities.

The firm advises on a variety of matters including banking law, securities law, foreign exchange regulations, employment law, tax law, and a wide range of transactions including structured finance, contracts, and fund formation.  Rene briefly described examples of Orrick’s pro bono work related to financing opportunities, affordable housing, education, healthcare, clean water and sanitation, and clean and renewable energy.


Check out our full article on the 2012 Marketplace of Idea Sessions in the upcoming June Wire!  We look forward to learning more and sharing other replicable ideas and projects at the 2013 Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. on March 14-16. We invite those wishing to serve as presenters to submit brief proposals in advance describing their initiatives, to ensure adequate planning and capacity. Please send submissions to Law Firm Project Assistant Christine Sutherland. (Due to time limitations, we may not be able to accept all proposals.)

Hat tip to PBI intern Joanna Evans for her assistance.

* 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