The PBEye

Pro Bono As We See It
November 6, 2012

ACC AM12: Pro Bono Partnership Session Recap

The PBEye has more news to share with you about pro bono at the Association of Corporate Counsel’s 2012 Annual Meeting! In addition to hosting a program on aligning corporate social responsibility and pro bono, CPBO also participated in the session “Pro Bono Partnerships Mean Greater Value from Your Outside Counsel,” sponsored by DLA Piper LLP*†.

This interactive session brought together a diverse panel that included CPBO Director Eve Runyon, Celeste Como, corporate attorney at Verizon Wireless, a subsidiary of Verizon Communications Inc.**, Bruce Ives, deputy general counsel at Hewlett-Packard Company**, Lisa Dewey, pro bono partner and director of New Perimeter, and Stasia Kelly, partner, both from DLA Piper.

The panelists discussed the growing trend of legal departments teaming with law firms to provide pro bono legal services. Dewey began the session by providing background on in-house pro bono and the crisis in access to justice.  She explained how the growth of in-house pro bono could be attributed, in part, to both the increase in need for legal services and the benefits providing pro bono assistance brings to volunteers, legal departments, and communities.

The panelists then discussed challenges in-house attorneys face when seeking to provide pro bono services. Runyon described a few hurdles – state practice rules, malpractice insurance, and time commitment – and detailed steps to ensure that those challenges do not act as barriers.  All panelists agreed that partnering with law firms can help address some of these challenges.

For example, partnering can lead to a more successful pro bono program that provides a variety of options to volunteers due to leveraged resources. Como and Ives provided several specific examples based on their experience at Verizon and Hewlett Packard.

Partnering also creates value between legal departments and their outside firms.  Kelly recounted her experiences by describing how an improved pro bono program can create goodwill with the partner firm by opening up the lines of communication. Runyon added that while partnering can be effective at enhancing business relationships and pro bono assistance, it does require careful thought and planning regarding roles and responsibilities, as well as continued open communication.

To find out more about initiating, creating, or developing sustainable partnerships between legal departments and law firms contact 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