The PBEye

Pro Bono As We See It

Corporate Pro Bono

May 16, 2017

Pro Bono Work Removing Barriers to Employment

As May Day protests wind down, the issue of workers’ rights continues to linger in the public’s mind. Immigrant and LGBTQI+ worker rights were popular subjects this year, but an often overlooked issue is the immense hurdle a criminal record poses to individuals seeking employment.

Although campaigns like Ban the Box are working to limit the lasting impact of a criminal record, not all states have adopted this policy. This is problematic because helping individuals clear their criminal records can dramatically increase their chances of finding work. Unfortunately, many who qualify for expungement of their records or who may obtain clemency often do not have the financial means or knowledge required to begin the process. In response, Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatories across the country are providing pro bono legal assistance. For example:

  • Allstate Insurance Company** has partnered with Cabrini Green Legal Aid (CGLA) to help CGLA staff expunge criminal records and generate clemency petitions. Allstate sends volunteers once a month to staff CGLA’s expungement and record-sealing help desk. In addition, recognizing that clemency is sometimes an individual’s last chance to clear their record when they are ineligible for expungement, Allstate started a clemency initiative with CGLA. Through this initiative, Allstate volunteers help clients prepare clemency petitions for the governor and provide representation at formal hearings in front of the Prisoner Review Board. Allstate volunteers have spent more than 1,000 hours on such matters and been successful in assisting six clients obtain clemency.
  • Best Buy Co., Inc.** volunteers were the first to staff the Volunteer Lawyers Network’s (VLN) criminal expungement clinic in 2004. Since then, 3M Company** has joined the effort and volunteers from both companies staff the pro se expungement clinic twice a month. Volunteers create narratives explaining how their clients are negatively impacted by the public nature of their past records.
  • Discover Financial Services** volunteers attend a free legal services clinic in the Woodlawn neighborhood in the south side of Chicago and serve low-income residents of this neighborhood and the surrounding area in a multitude of ways, including expungement of criminal records, receiving public benefits, and child support. Since first volunteering, over 20 Discover lawyers and 10 non-lawyers have committed over 200 hours to the clinic.
  • Ford Motor Company** attorneys participate in the Legal Aid and Defender Association expungement clinic, helping clients prepare the documentation needed to begin the process of expungement and handling any pleadings and hearings involved in obtaining an expungement on behalf of their clients. To encourage their attorneys’ commitment to pro bono work, Ford has at least four Accelerated Action Days that provide their employees with opportunities to partake in volunteer work; often one of the four Accelerated Action Days focuses on supplying clients with the documentation necessary for expungement.
  • Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company ** has paired up with Project Homeless Connect’s (PHC) and staffs its legal and ID clinic to assist homeless individuals clear their criminal records, apply for a California ID, and much more.
  • United Continental Holdings, Inc.** also partners with CGLA and provides volunteers for CGLA’s expungement help desk located at the Daley Center in Chicago. In addition, United volunteers represent clients at live calling hearings for expungement and take the first 25 clients signed up at the help desk. Through its partnership with CGLA, United volunteers have achieved a 90 percent success rate in expunging records.

Due to the wonderful work of these companies, many low-income ex-offenders have been able to improve their chances of finding employment. A criminal record can prove a significant barrier for individuals seeking to establish stable and productive lives, which is why campaigns like Ban the Box and the pro bono work supporting expungement and clemency are so essential.

Hat tip to PBI intern Kelsey Muniz for his help with this post.

** denotes a Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory

May 2, 2017

The Power of Stories and Pro Bono

Long time readers of The PBEye might remember a blog post from 2014: Television and Pro Bono: An Innovative Approach. The post detailed how Viacom Inc.**, one of the world’s premier entertainment brands, combined the medium of television with the unique skills of its legal department and production staff to engage in pro bono. To increase public awareness of gender-based violence and the implications of Kenya’s 2006 Sexual Offences Act, Viacom worked with the producers of its television program, Shuga: Love, Sex, Money, to incorporate important legal information into the storyline and leverage the program to educate the Kenyan community and viewers around the world.

The television show, which is shown on stations worldwide, is produced by MTV Networks Africa, The MTV Staying Alive Foundation, and several other partners, and is part of a large multimedia campaign with a goal of achieving a generation free of HIV. During the show’s pre-production phase, Viacom worked with Shearman & Sterling*† and Lawyers Without Borders to research and analyze Kenyan case law so that they could consult with the production team to structure a plotline regarding rape and draft materials for a public legal education campaign.

So where is Shuga now? So glad you asked! NPR recently released an article entitled Watch the MTV Soap Opera That Is Secretly Teaching Sex Ed detailing the project’s progress. Shuga launched its fifth season this spring, and TV channels and radio stations in 42 African countries have signed up to broadcast the latest season. According to MTV, the show has reached 719 million people through local entertainment networks and online sources.

Not only has the show grown in popularity, but there is evidence that the messaging is sinking in as well. The World Bank published a study last month that showed young viewers were twice as likely to get tested for HIV after watching the show for six months. The study also found that the number of chlamydia infections among women who watched was 58 percent lower than among those who did not watch.

“The results confirm the research on how young people learn,” reported NPR, “Stories are a safe, accessible way to get information out to adolescents who might otherwise tune out important messages about sexual health.”

Congratulations to Viacom, Shearman & Sterling, and Lawyers Without Borders!

denotes Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® signatory
† denotes a Member of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project
** denotes Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory

 

April 25, 2017

Support Your Chapter in the CPBO Chapter Challenge!

CPBO is excited to announce the CPBO Chapter Challenge for 2017!  CPBO invites ACC chapters to encourage their members to demonstrate their commitment to pro bono legal services by signing or encouraging their CLOs to sign the CPBO Challenge® statement. The ACC chapter with the most new signatories to the Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® initiative on September 30 will be recognized at the 2017 ACC Annual Meeting in Washington DC.

It’s only been a month, and already two front runners have emerged! Currently, the Arizona and National Capital Region ACC Chapters are in the lead, both bringing new signatories to the CPBO Challenge® initiative.

In 2016, the inaugural year of the CPBO Chapter Challenge, competing chapters collectively encouraged 10 legal departments to declare their commitment to pro bono and sign the CPBO Challenge® statement. CPBO honored ACC Chicago for encouraging the most CLOs to join the challenge.  For more information, please contact CPBO at cpbo@probonoinst.org.

 

April 18, 2017

CLO Letter in Support of Funding LSC Reaches 195 Signatories

In response to The White House Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) recommendation to eliminate federal funding for the Legal Services Corp. (LSC) for FY18, 195 chief legal officers and general counsel from across the U.S. have signed their names to a letter in support of funding LSC at $450 million for the next fiscal year. The National Law Journal pointed out that the signatories represent numerous industries and some of the country’s biggest companies.

Why are so many general counsel committed to supporting LSC? As the largest funder of civil legal services in the U.S., LSC funds the legal aid organizations that serve almost two million Americans every year and play a vital role in helping ensure access to justice. LSC-funded organizations offer a wide range of necessary services, including representation of domestic violence survivors, families in danger of losing their homes, and veterans and seniors deprived of public benefits to name a few. In addition, these organizations are essential in connecting those in need to pro bono legal services offered by legal departments and law firms.

In-house counsel aren’t the only ones in support of funding LSC. More than 150 law firm leaders signed a similar letter sent to OMB in early March which noted, “Eliminating the Legal Services Corporation will not only imperil the ability of civil legal aid organizations to serve Americans in need, it will also vastly diminish the private bar’s capacity to help these individuals.”

PBI stands with LSC and those who believe it should be fully funded.

To learn more or add your name to the letter, which will be updated and re-submitted at various stages of the budget approval process, please contact CPBO.

March 29, 2017

One Month Left For Nominations for the 2017 CPBO Pro Bono Partner Award

Time is running out to submit Pro Bono Partner Award Nominations for 2017. Until April 21, CPBO is accepting nominations for the 2017 CPBO Pro Bono Partner Award. The award recognizes innovative team approaches to pro bono work involving in-house legal departments, law firms, and public interest groups. Nominated partnerships must include at least one legal department and one or more law firms and/or public interest group partners. CPBO may present two awards: (1) to a partnership that includes a legal department of 50 or more lawyers; and (2) to a partnership that includes a legal department of 49 or less lawyers.

The award will be presented at the Pro Bono Institute Annual Dinner in New York City on September 28, 2017.

The 2016 recipients were:

A full list of previous award winners can be found here. To nominate a pro bono partnership, please complete a nomination form and submit a letter of nomination no later than April 21, 2017.

Award criteria and the nomination form are available here. For more information about the award, please contact CPBO.
**denotes a Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory

 

March 21, 2017

Learn More about In-House Pro Bono Budgets

This March, CPBO releases the latest installment in its infographic series, aimed at making complicated in-house pro bono issues easier to digest. The newly published infographic is titled “In-House Pro Bono Budgets”. The new publication touches on: expenses, budgeting, and foundation funding. The data comes from not-yet-released responses to the 2016 CPBO Benchmarking Survey.

Among other statistics, the infographic reveals that the largest expenses covered in annual budgets include trainings of volunteers and refreshments at events. In addition, 50% of respondents whose pro bono programs received support from the company’s foundation or CSR department report in 2015 they received more than $100,000.

Want to know about more than just budgets? Good news, CPBO has developed a wide variety of resources for legal departments of any size, including the following infographics on critical in-house pro bono issues:

Want to do a deeper dive on the issues? Take a look at CPBO’s publications or contact CPBO for a consultation.

March 7, 2017

Webinar Recap — In-House Pro Bono Partnership: Self Help Resource Center

On February 16, PBI hosted the webinar “In-House Pro Bono Partnership: Self Help Resource Center” which provided an in-depth look at the 2016 CPBO Partner Award Recipients. The CPBO Pro Bono Partner Award recognizes innovative team approaches to pro bono work involving in-house legal departments, law firms, and public interest groups.

The 2016 CPBO Partner Award honored the pro bono partnership between Entergy Corporation**, the Louisiana Civil Justice Center, and the Orleans Parish Civil District Court, to develop and support the Orleans Parish Self Help Resource Center (SHRC).  The SHRC is a help desk that assists thousands of unrepresented low-income and vulnerable domestic court litigants in the Greater New Orleans area. Launched by the Civil District Court with significant help from Entergy’s legal department, the initiative exemplifies the value and influence of leadership by in-house legal departments in the area of pro bono service.

The webinar features the following speakers discussing the ins and outs of the partnership as well as how to replicate the Self Help Resource Center in other locations or for other areas of law:

  • Judge Bernadette G. D’Souza, Domestic Section, Orleans Parish Civil District Court
  • Jonathan M. Rhodes, Executive Director, Louisiana Civil Justice Center
  • Wendy Hickok Robinson, Assistant General Counsel – Litigation, Entergy Services, Inc.
  • Michael W. Schachtam, Self-Represented Litigation Counsel, Louisiana State Bar Association

Did you miss the program? Don’t worry, it’s available on-demand! In-house participants should contact CPBO Project Assistant Virginia Lyon for registration information. Law Firm Pro Bono Project Member Firms should contact Law Firm Pro Bono Project Assistant Elysse DeRita for the promotional code to register. CLE credit is available for this program in many states. Be sure to check back often for other online offerings and browse the other webinars available on-demand.

To find out more about the CPBO Pro Bono Partner Award or in-house pro bono, please contact CPBO.

**denotes a Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory

February 21, 2017

Submit Nominations for the 2017 CPBO Pro Bono Partner Award

Know of an inspiring and impactful pro bono partnership? CPBO is now accepting nominations for the 2017 CPBO Pro Bono Partner Award. The award recognizes innovative team approaches to pro bono work involving in-house legal departments, law firms, and public interest groups. Nominated partnerships must include at least one legal department and one or more law firms and/or public interest group partners. CPBO may present two awards: (1) to a partnership that includes a legal department of 50 or more lawyers; and (2) to a partnership that includes a legal department of 49 or less lawyers.

The award will be presented at the Pro Bono Institute Annual Dinner in New York City on September 28, 2017.

The 2016 recipients were:

A full list of previous award winners can be found here. To nominate a pro bono partnership, please complete a nomination form and submit a letter of nomination no later than April 21, 2017.

Award criteria and the nomination form are available here. For more information about the award, please contact CPBO.

 

**denotes a Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory

February 14, 2017

Capital One – Ringing in 2017 with Pro Bono

On January 31, Capital One Financial Corporation** co-hosted a Clinic in a Box® Program – Legal Audit with CPBO, McGuireWoods LLP*†, and United Way of the National Capital Area. Twenty-six Capital One volunteers met at the McGuireWoods office in Tysons, Virginia, to receive training and assist ten local nonprofits with a legal audit. Attorneys from McGuireWoods led an hour and a half long training that offered instruction on five areas of law vital to the upkeep of Virginia nonprofits: governance, intellectual property, employment, human resources, and fiscal management. Once the training concluded, the volunteers broke into teams and went to work with their pre-assigned clients.

Over the course of more than two hours, volunteers utilized a detailed checklist to ask questions, review current practices, provide advice, and identify areas for follow-up.  Through providing legal assistance to these nonprofits, volunteers help ensure the services these nonprofits offer their communities — ranging from support for survivors of domestic violence to housing for the homeless — can continue. One client summed up the importance of the clinic by saying, “Very useful time spent. You don’t know what you don’t know. A review like this is so beneficial to be proactive in addressing concerns!” Thank you to the organizers, volunteers, and trainers who aided not only the 10 nonprofits present, but the estimated 24,500 clients they reach.

ACC chapters and legal departments interested in hosting a similar clinic, can learn more on the Clinic in a Box® program webpage and read about previous clinics here. To discuss in-house pro bono, please contact CPBO.

* denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® signatory
† denotes a Member of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project

**denotes a Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory

 

January 17, 2017

Guest Blog: Sixth Annual ACC Northeast Chapter Clinic in a Box® Program

Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky, and Popeo†* was honored to once again join with the Association of Corporate Counsel Northeast Chapter (ACC-Northeast), CPBO, and Lawyers Clearinghouse, to host a Clinic in a Box® program to provide pro bono legal services to local nonprofit organizations for the sixth year in a row.

For the 40 in-house volunteers, the day started with a 90-minute training session led by Mintz Levin Attorney Anthony Hubbard who discussed bylaws and retired Casner & Edwards Partner Dick Allen who covered conflicts of interest (COI) policies. After the training, volunteer attorneys broke into small teams and met with 14 local nonprofits to assist with developing or editing the organizations’ bylaws and COI polices.

Volunteer attorneys came from a range of companies, including Adobe Systems Incorporated, Bose Corporation, Boston Scientific Corporation**, GE Oil & Gas (a subsidiary of General Electric Company**), Liberty Mutual Holding Company Inc., National Grid USA, and Velcro Companies.

Through such clinics, the volunteers benefit not only the nonprofits they sit with that day, but the individuals those nonprofits serve. The participating nonprofits provide many critically valuable services, such as assisting low-income immigrant families, providing shelter and services to survivors of domestic violence, and providing learning opportunities for Boston’s public school children.

Mintz Levin is happy to continue to include the Clinic in a Box® program in its many pro bono efforts.    “It is a pleasure to host the clinic in our Boston office and support the great work of in-house counsel dedicating their time and legal expertise to assisting organizations that contribute so much to our community,” notes Sue Finegan, Chair, Pro Bono Committee, Mintz Levin.

Both clients and volunteers had great things to say about their experiences. “This program was very fulfilling and enjoyable!” one volunteer noted. A client added their thanks for the work done that day, commenting, “I thought the clinic was VERY helpful, the individualized attention was great. Thank you so much for your help in organizing!”

Congratulations to the Boston in-house community and thank you to ACC-Northeast, CPBO, and Lawyers Clearinghouse for continuing to co-host the clinic. We look forward to working with you again in 2017 and beyond!

Thank you, Mintz Levin, 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

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