The PBEye

Pro Bono As We See It
November 6, 2019

Keep Growing and Going Global: Upping the Pro Bono Game in GSK Legal

Legal departments of many multinational companies have expanded their pro bono efforts beyond the United States to other markets. Twenty-eight percent of legal departments are engaged in global pro bono, according to the 2018 Benchmarking Report of Corporate Pro Bono (CPBO), while others are exploring how to do so. We invited Andy Boczkowski, Assistant General Counsel at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Chair of its Pro Bono Legal Committee, to discuss how GSK is rapidly scaling up its pro bono program from national to global.


GSK is a global pharmaceutical and healthcare company with a mission to help people do more, feel better, and live longer. GSK makes medicines that address unmet medical needs. GSK values its relationship with society and recognizes the importance of trust in achieving its mission. Accordingly, it devotes significant effort to corporate social responsibility (CSR) and engages in many programs and activities to improve the communities where we live, work and where our medicines have impact.

Within the Legal Department, the company has long recognized that the legal profession is uniquely qualified to serve society by improving access to justice. Beginning in 2005, GSK Legal formalized a US pro bono policy outlining company support for in-house counsel interested in pro bono without mandating participation. For many years a small but devoted group of US attorneys provided pro bono legal service with company support. It was a program to be proud of for sure—but we knew we could do more.

Beginning in 2018, the Law Department began a plan to accelerate growth of its pro bono program to address unmet legal need with a greater impact. The plan was to go global and grow. The journey has just begun but we are excited to embark on it. Here are the key features and lessons learned of GSK’s global pro bono program to date:

  1. Tone from the Top. James Ford, our General Counsel, highlighted pro bono in his global broadcasts to attorneys. We also incorporated a pro bono session at our all hands Global Legal learning sessions in Singapore, London and Raleigh, where the new global program was unveiled and where local pilot projects were highlighted.
  2. Go Global. We expanded the US-only pro bono policy to a global policy. We were able to leverage the consultative services of CPBO to draft it. And we set up a pro bono committee to approve and track projects and staffed it with lawyers from around the globe to help generate a truly global presence.
  3. Inclusion. We defined the program to be for ALL LEGAL STAFF, not just lawyers. Having administrative support and paralegals involved with attorneys handling pro bono is driving a true team mentality. We also purchased in-house attorney malpractice insurance for pro bono on a global basis. The high return on this small investment increased confidence in the program and widened the range of possible pro bono projects our attorneys could choose from.
  4. Align with CSR. We communicated our goals and worked with our colleagues in our Community Partnerships group to show how Legal contributed to company CSR goals. We provided reports of our efforts and hours and fed that into metrics about the company’s employee volunteer programs. And we aligned pro bono projects to nonprofits that received grants from GSK by volunteering pro bono legal services to such organizations. For example, for years we have been staffing a legal intake clinic at a homeless shelter in Philadelphia. This pro bono project was initially inspired by a company grant to the Homeless Advocacy Project. And, in the UK, we have initiated a project to provide pro bono legal services to nonprofits receiving company community partnership grants.
  5. Align to Inclusion and Diversity Programs. We discovered that the subject matter of many pro bono projects, as well as the partnerships and interactions available in the pro bono space, ended up having much in common with GSK Legal’s interests from an Inclusion and Diversity perspective. We highlighted common ground in the hopes of increasing participation in both Pro Bono and I&D projects. For example, one of our attorneys was able to obtain asylum for a pro bono client who experienced severe discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation in their home country. We highlighted the story and pro bono referral organization within the GSK I&D community.
  6. Define Pro Bono in the Context of Corporate Values. We made sure we showed our lawyers and business colleagues how our pro bono program aligned to the broader corporate vision.
  7. Awareness. We updated our pro bono web page. We started a Facebook workplace pro bono page to share opportunities, report successes, exchange ideas and recognize great work.
  8. Leveraging Relationships. We invited our external counsel to pitch in-house/external firm pro bono partnerships. This has been especially important outside the US where we had no prior pro bono project experience as a company. Indeed, our first pro bono project in the UK was a partnership proposed by our outside counsel where our lawyers have teamed up with the firm to provide legal services related to disability benefit challenges in the UK.

During 2019 to date, we have already eclipsed GSK Legal’s total pro bono service hours in 2018 and instead of having projects running in only the Philadelphia and Raleigh metro areas, our program also now has multiple new US-based projects, including in Warren, NJ, and Rockville, MD, as well as projects in London (project related to disability benefit challenges and project providing corporate legal advice to nonprofits that receiving GSK grants), and Singapore (a project to provide legal training to nonprofits that assist migrant workers in the region). Pilot projects in Europe are slated to kick off soon as we grow the program worldwide.

GSK Legal’s journey toward doing more to address unmet legal need is now accelerated and we look forward to striving to continuously improve the pro bono program.