The PBEye

Pro Bono As We See It
August 3, 2012

CPBO Skyrockets Pro Bono Efforts

Houston may be well known for its contributions to space technology, but it is also a hub of business in the Southwest.  Naturally, it was the perfect location for PBI’s July 26 Regional Leadership Convocation with legal departments in the region to discuss their role in addressing the crisis in access to justice through pro bono service.  The meeting was hosted by Fulbright Jaworski L.L.P.* and included representatives from American Airlines, Inc.**, Dell Inc.**, ExxonMobil Corporation, Halliburton Company, Marathon Oil Corporation**, Shell Oil Company**, The Williams Companies**, and WPX Energy, Inc.

Stewart Gagnon, chair of Fulbright’s pro bono committee, welcomed the attendees and highlighted the importance of law firms and legal departments working collaboratively to improve pro bono.  CPBO Director Eve Runyon described the national picture as well as the current state of access to justice in the Southwest.  She noted that in 2010, 15.1 percent of all Americans lived below the poverty line, and in the Southwest between 16.3 to 20.5 percent of residents lived below the line.

Attendees discussed common challenges facing them as leaders of in-house pro bono programs and considered innovative strategies that would strengthen the impact of the services the lawyers and other professional staff in their departments provide and that improve the efficiency of their pro bono programs.  Topics they touched on included:

  • expanding and deepening pro bono involvement within the department;
  • actively engaging management in pro bono;
  • identifying meaningful pro bono initiatives;
  • developing desktop pro bono projects that can serve rural areas;
  • creating projects that serve clients where they live;
  • eliminating state practice restrictions on in-house pro bono; and
  • creating collaborations among legal departments and other organizations.

The event ended with discussion of how legal departments can continue to work together to share knowledge and leverage resources and how PBI and CPBO can assist with these efforts.

The PBEye is excited to report that the departments that met in Houston demonstrated that hardships should not serve as an inhibitor to quality pro bono work but instead be an opportunity to improve. Legal departments in the Southwest are shooting for the stars when it comes to in-house pro bono.

To learn more about CPBO or in-house pro bono, please contact CPBO Director Eve Runyon.

* 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

Hat tip to PBI intern Ben Gloger for his help on this post.