Guest Blog: Legal Pro Bono Project Helping Those in Need
We at The PBEye are inspired every day by the Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatories. In celebration of the 10th anniversary of the launch of the CPBO Challenge® initiative, we are showcasing some of their projects and letting them inspire you too.
PNC Bank** Legal’s Pro Bono Project is just two years old, but it’s already made a big difference in the lives of those who otherwise could not afford to pay for legal services.
With 30 engagements in the second half of 2014 and more than 70 in 2015, the Project has surpassed its goals. Those numbers also show the program is achieving its goal of ingraining pro bono work in the culture of the company’s Legal employees.
“Not only are you helping people who need the skills we can provide, but you’re expanding your own knowledge and skill set,” said Mark Gittelman, managing chief counsel – Bankruptcy and Business Restructuring, who manages the program. “You’re meeting different people and doing different things.”
Advocating for those in need. PNC’s lawyers are helping aspiring small-business owners with the legal aspects of forming their business, and creating wills and living wills for senior citizens. They’re involved with initiatives like The Name Change Project, which helps transgender people navigate the legal aspects of changing their names to match their identities, and the Homeless Advocacy Project, which helps homeless people with issues like Social Security benefits or having long-past, minor criminal records expunged so they can get jobs and break the cycle of poverty.
They’re also providing legal services to youths in the Philadelphia foster care system, making sure that, while other lawyers are looking out for their parents’ interests, someone is advocating for them. “That’s very rewarding,” Gittelman said. “You can have a child in a very bad situation and help put them in a much better one.”
The program recently added a Pittsburgh location to the work PNC’s lawyers in Philadelphiahave been doing with the Pennsylvania Innocence Project. Based out of Temple University Beasley School of Law in Philadelphia, the project uses law students and pro bono lawyers to screen applications from prisoners for substantial claims of innocence, then takes on select cases with the goal of exonerating and releasing those who have been wrongly convicted.
‘The most amazing experience.’ To further strengthen the program in the PNC Legal culture, the team hosted PNC Pro Bono Week in September 2015, lining up a number of opportunities for prospective volunteers to get involved. Social service providers came into offices where the company has lawyers — in Chicago, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Washington, D.C. — to conduct training, or PNC’s lawyers visited law offices to participate in legal service clinics available to the public.
This year, the Pro Bono Project plans to expand its work with the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, conduct legal service clinics in more cities across PNC’s footprint, coordinate efforts between SeniorLAW Center locations in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to protect the rights of older Pennsylvanians, and “offering as many different opportunities in as many areas as possible,” Gittelman said.
Thank you, PNC Bank, for contributing to The PBEye.
† denotes a Member of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project
* denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® signatory
** denotes a Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory