The PBEye

Pro Bono As We See It
January 30, 2013

ACC Chapters & Pro Bono

Since its inception, CPBO has worked closely with the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) and many local chapters of the organization on pro bono matters.   ACC currently has 54 chapters, which represent more than 30,000 in-house counsel around the globe.  ACC Chapters are engaged in improving access to justice in a number of ways, including coordinating pro bono projects for their members, supporting local legal services organizations, developing important connections between in-house volunteers and pro bono opportunities, and expressing the voice of the in-house bar on access to justice related issues, such as authorized in-house counsels’ right to practice pro bono.

ACC Chapter pro bono programs are important for a variety of reasons.  While hundreds of legal departments have formalized pro bono programs, there are many more that do not.  Furthermore, for lawyers in smaller legal departments, a formal pro bono program might not be practical for a number of reasons, including a lack of resources.  Certainly, in any case, convening in-house counsel to engage in and support pro bono legal services is beneficial for the volunteers and clients in need.

ACC Chapter Pro Bono Projects

ACC Chapter pro bono projects vary from ongoing periodic events to one-time opportunities.  For example, the Houston ACC Chapter participates in a number of pro bono events, including regular monthly clinics with the Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program, ranging in scope from a dedicated wills clinic to a general legal advice clinic.  In addition, the Northeast Chapter of ACC trains and supplies mediators for weekly small claims mediations and summary process at local courts.  A popular pro bono event with many ACC Chapters is the CPBO Clinic in a BoxSM program.  In 2012 alone, ACC-Northeast, the Minnesota Chapter, ACC Chicago, and the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter, co-hosted such programs, with volunteers conducting a legal audit of dozens of local organizations in need of legal assistance.

Connecting In-House Volunteers and Opportunities

Another example of the role ACC Chapters can play is by promoting pro bono participation and providing the tools for their members to get involved.  For instance, the Ontario Chapter’s campaign “IN Your Corner” encourages members to provide pro bono by offering training and volunteer opportunities.  The Charlotte ACC Chapter takes an in-person approach and has hosted several Pro Bono Forums, bringing together its members and representatives from legal services organizations, to highlight pro bono opportunities and address issues of concern to in-house attorneys interested in providing pro bono legal services.

ACC Chapter Pro Bono Support

In addition to hosting numerous CPBO Clinic in a BoxSM programs, the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter established a Stewardship Committee five years ago to support local legal services organizations that serve clients in need in the Bay Area.  Since its formation, the Committee has carefully considered the criteria for beneficiaries and donated more than $200,000 to selected organizations located in the Chapter’s members’ key communities, ranging in size from small to large, which serve children, the elderly, people living with AIDS, and the financially disadvantaged.

Voice of the In-House Bar on Pro Bono

For in-house counsel, ACC is the leading source for news and information about in-house practice , and ACC Chapters have played an important role in spreading the word among their members about issues related to in-house pro bono.  A recent key issue is addressing practice rules that allow non-locally licensed in-house counsel to work for their employer, but do not allow them to provide pro bono legal services without restriction.  Many in-house counsel are not aware of the issue, which CPBO and ACC have been working to address for several years.  Through Chapter outreach, in-house counsel are increasingly interested in changing such rules and have become engaged with CPBO and ACC in efforts to do so.

How has your ACC Chapter engaged in pro bono?  Please let us know by leaving a comment below.  If you are interested in learning more about how CPBO can assist your ACC Chapter develop a pro bono program or become involved in pro bono related issues, contact CPBO Director Eve Runyon.

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