The PBEye

Pro Bono As We See It
September 3, 2013

In-House Hot Topic: Recognizing Pro Bono

During the In-House Track at this year’s PBI Annual Conference, in-house counsel and other legal department staff broke into groups to discuss a variety of hot topics relevant to the continued development of in-house pro bono. Led by Scott Kearns of Dell Inc.**, one group focused their discussion on pro bono recognition, which can provide a host of benefits to legal departments as a whole and the individual attorneys and staff that do pro bono. Representing seven companies from across the country, all participants agreed on the importance of recognition and discussed the why, who, and what of doing so, which are highlighted below.

Why? For the Legal Department, Company, Volunteers, Legal Community
Recognizing pro bono efforts benefits the company, volunteers, and legal community. For the company, publicity about its legal department’s pro bono program communicates the company’s commitment to the community. For the legal department, recognition throughout the company conveys the legal department’s commitment to corporate social responsibility and can improve integration of the legal department into the company as a whole. While some volunteers may be embarrassed by the attention, for most who participate in pro bono work, recognition validates the employee’s efforts and confirms that the company finds the service important. In addition, praising pro bono service sends a positive signal to other employees within the company and may inspire and encourage pro bono participation, including among other legal departments and law firms.

Who? Individuals, Teams, Partners
Depending on the goal, legal departments honor a host of contributors to their programs, including stand-out individual volunteers (lawyers and non-lawyers), teams, practice groups, and partners. With the goal of increasing broad participation, some legal departments publish an annual list of all who volunteer. A recent development is presenting awards to outside partners, such as Dell’s innovative Pro Bono Excellence Award, which not only expresses gratitude, but also encourages law firm pro bono participation and partnership with the legal department.

What? Form of Recognition
The means of recognition also varies based on the reason. Legal departments that wish to publicize their pro bono efforts or the company’s larger community services or corporate social responsibility efforts may publish features in company-wide newsletters or annual reports or seek publicity in external sources – publications (e.g., ACC Chapter publications) and awards (such as the CPBO Partner Award or ACC Pro Bono Award). If inspiring participation and conveying a company’s support to its employees is the goal, legal departments use a variety of forms including making pro bono a factor in employee evaluations, named awards, donations related to the volunteer’s work, attendance at the PBI Annual Conference, and articles in the legal department or company’s internal newsletter.

To discuss the ideas listed above, recognition planning or in-house pro bono generally, contact CPBO Director Eve Runyon. To participate in conversations like this one, put the PBI 2014 Annual Conference which will be held March 5 – 7 on your calendar now!

** denotes a Signatory to the Corporate Pro Bono ChallengeSM