The PBEye

Pro Bono As We See It

Corporate Pro Bono

July 18, 2017

Transgender Name Changes and Pro Bono

As of 2016,approximately 1.4 million people in the United States identify as transgender. An important milestone in many of their transitions is legally changing their name and gender marker. However, the process can be overwhelming due to confusing regulations, high costs, and government bureaucracy. Transgender people are four times more likely to live under the poverty line, and many cannot afford the financial and time commitment necessary to obtain a legal change in name and gender designation. Fortunately, a number of organizations across the country have dedicated time and resources to provide such services through pro bono volunteers.

For example, the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF), a nonprofit committed to ending discrimination and achieving equality for transgender people, launched The Name Change Project in 2007 to help transgender individuals legally change their name and gender marker. Over the past ten years, many law firms and legal departments have volunteered with the Name Change Project to provide pro bono legal services, including The Bank of New York Mellon Corporation**, The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc.**, and  Viacom, Inc.** Currently, the Name Change Project serves individuals in Chicago, IL (Cook County), Milwaukee, WI (Milwaukee County), New York City, NY (all five boroughs/counties), Philadelphia, PA (Philadelphia County), and Pittsburgh, PA (Allegheny County). Pro bono attorneys meet with their clients to discuss the process, prepare and file the necessary documents for a name change petition, schedule and attend hearings, and assist with any other state requirements. With the help of an attorney, the name change process typically takes an average of four months to complete, and an average of 20 attorney hours.

Five years ago in Washington, D.C., Trans Legal Advocates of Washington (TransLAW) and Whitman-Walker Health worked together to begin offering free clinics to provide legal assistance with the name and gender marker change process. These walk-in clinics are now hosted monthly.  Trained volunteers help transgender people obtain court orders and change drivers’ licenses, passports, birth certificates, and other identity documents and public records.

Transgender people can face many legal obstacles and pro bono attorneys can make a significant impact in overcoming those obstacles. The National Center for Transgender Equality maintains the Trans Legal Services Network Directory, a list of national, regional, and local organizations that provide legal help.

** denotes a Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory

Hat tip to PBI intern Sahil Shah for his help with this post.

June 27, 2017

Clorox Honored as 2017 Best Legal Department

In early June, Corporate Counsel announced CPBO Challenge® signatory, The Clorox Company**, as one of four 2017 Best Legal Departments. The awardees were selected based on success stories indicating the department has been integral in leading innovation and change.

According to Corporate Counsel’s write-up on Clorox’s award, Cleaning up with Clorox’s Legal Team, the department received the award in part because of its knack for successfully collaborating with the company’s business side. “Our hallmark is partnering with business,” says Laura Stein, Clorox’s Executive Vice President and General Counsel and CPBO’s Advisory Board Co-Chair, “The global legal implications of doing business today gives us a seat at the table.” Members of Stein’s legal department co-lead Clorox programs on topics such as global privacy, cybersecurity, and enterprise management.

In addition to significant collaboration, the department was commended for its commitment to driving positive change in the legal profession through pro bono work and efforts to increase diversity. Under  American Bar Association standards, the Clorox legal team is 75 percent diverse, and Stein herself chairs the national Leadership Council on Legal Diversity, an organization of more than 265 corporate legal officers and law firm managing partners dedicated to creating a diverse legal profession.

In addition to diversity in the legal profession, the Clorox legal team works to improve the legal profession through pro bono work. In 2016, Clorox attorneys provided pro bono services through a number of projects. Volunteers partnered with the East Bay Community Law Center to expunge criminal records and provided guidance on copyright and trademark issues for clients of California Lawyers for the Arts.

In giving the award, Corporate Counsel also mentioned Mark Danis, Gillian Thackray, and Angela Hilt, leaders of Clorox’s legal team, for such notable work as winning a case that could have affected many producers of consumer goods, working closely with a business unit on critical patent protections, and broadening Clorox’s reach into the health care industry through the acquisition of RenewLife.

The PBEye congratulates Clorox for its award along with First Data, IBM, and PETA Foundation, and commends the legal department for its continued commitment to pro bono and driving diversity in the legal profession.

** denotes a Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory

June 20, 2017

CPBO at the 2017 ACC Annual Meeting

The PBEye is happy to announce that the CPBO team will be staying put in D.C. for the 2017 ACC Annual Meeting. At the meeting, held October 15 – 18, you can get your recommended dose of in-house pro bono at the following events:

Clinic in a Box® Program Training  Sunday, October 15, 3:00 – 4:30 pm
Is your ACC chapter or legal department interested in co-hosting a Clinic in a Box® program? Join CPBO and be trained to co-host a Clinic in a Box® program, a half-day clinic that provides in-house counsel the opportunity to advise nonprofit organizations or small businesses while earning CLE credit.  (Note that registration is required and there is a separate fee to participate in this program.)

Clinic in a Box® Program  Monday, October 16, 8:30 am – 1:15 pm
Earn CLE credit while providing pro bono services to nonprofit organizations that are in great need of legal assistance. In the first half of the clinic, law firm experts train participants, who during the second half meet in teams with representatives of D.C. area nonprofits to provide legal advice. Training materials and information about the nonprofit clients are provided to participants in advance. (Note that pre-registration is required to participate.)

Session: Ethics of In-house Pro Bono  Tuesday, October 17, 2:30 – 4:00 pm
Are you concerned about pro bono practice and ethics rules, and/or interested in learning how you and your legal department can engage in providing pro bono legal services? This session will provide an overview of the ethical issues in-house attorneys face when representing clients in pro bono matters in the US, as well as address practical issues related to in-house pro bono. Topics will include administering a pro bono program, managing conflicts (both legal and business), and securing malpractice insurance.

Meet with CPBO  Sunday, October 15 – Wednesday, October 18 
CPBO looks forward to meeting with attendees when they have free time between programs. If you are interested in sitting down with CPBO for a few minutes to discuss options and initiatives for yourself, your legal department, or your chapter, please contact CPBO to set up a time that is convenient for you. Or, stop by the CPBO booth in the exhibit hall to see new resources and chat with the CPBO team.

To find out more about the events listed above, please contact CPBO, and for the complete ACC Annual Meeting schedule, click here. We look forward to seeing you in D.C.!

June 13, 2017

Verizon Hosts a Clinic in a Box® Program in DC

On June 2, Verizon Communications Inc.** co-hosted a Clinic in a Box program with the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center, DLA Piper*, and Corporate Pro Bono at the Verizon offices in Washington, D.C. This was the 13th Clinic in a Box program Verizon has co-hosted with CPBO. The focus of this clinic was to help nonprofit clients set up their organization’s bylaws – a grey area for many nonprofits but also an essential foundation for their long-term success.

DLA Piper Partner Eric Geppert leads a presentation on nonprofit bylaws.

Verizon invited other legal departments to join its team of in-house volunteers, many of whom were returning participants. A total of 23 volunteers from Verizon, Bank of America Corporation**, Barclays Bank PLC**, Freddie Mac**, UnitedHealth Group Incorporated**, and new Verizon company XO Communications participated. DLA Piper Partner Eric Geppert kicked off the clinic with a volunteer training session on crafting and correcting bylaws for nonprofit organizations in accordance with D.C. law. Following the 90-minute presentation, the group put their training into action, meeting with eight local nonprofit organizations to review and update their bylaws. The clinic’s nonprofit clients engage in a wide variety of work serving vulnerable groups and individuals, including providing care and after-school support for young children, finding affordable and supportive housing for women with mental disabilities, and offering aid to pregnant women and parents. After gathering information about their client’s organization and its structure, the volunteers, working in teams, collaborated to update the bylaws and send revisions and notes to the clients.

The volunteers’ legal assistance at the clinic helped their clients avoid future roadblocks that might prevent the organizations from fulfilling their mission. Many of the volunteers appreciated the opportunity to assist nonprofit organizations, with one participant indicating that the clinic was a “great event and very fulfilling”. The clients echoed similar sentiments, commenting that “the team was very knowledgeable about nonprofit bylaws and their best practices”.

CPBO Director Tammy Sun and CPBO Assistant Director Shannon Graving check in volunteers and clients.

The PBEye thanks all of the co-hosts and volunteers for making this clinic a great success.

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 Law Firm Pro Bono Project® member
** denotes a Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory

Hat tip to PBI Intern Sahil Shah for his help with this story.

May 30, 2017

Leidos Takes the Pro Bono Plunge

In April, Leidos, Inc.** General Counsel Vince Maffeo, announced the launch of the legal department’s pro bono program to serve veterans, community nonprofits, and individuals in need.

Joining 167 other legal departments across the country, Maffeo signed the CPBO Challenge® statement, pledging to encourage and promote pro bono service in the Leidos legal department with an aspirational goal of 50 percent participation.

To kick off its pro bono initiative, the legal department hosted a department-wide legal ethics program presented by PBI President and CEO Eve Runyon and CPBO Director Tammy Sun on May 16 at Leidos’ offices in Reston, Virginia.

The program opened with a welcome by Leidos attorney Kristin Grimes, a member of the pro bono committee, who thanked Maffeo for his leadership and support of pro bono engagement. Runyon began by discussing the lawyer’s obligation to engage in pro bono service under the relevant rules as well as what kinds of service count as pro bono. Sun provided an overview of the various state rules that define the nature and scope of in-house counsel practice and how they impact pro bono practice for in-house counsel. The speakers also delved into common issues legal departments confront when engaging in pro bono matters, including insurance, the nature of the attorney-client relationship, potential conflicts of interest, and involving non-lawyer legal staff in pro bono.

The event gave members of the legal department an opportunity to ask questions, discuss the unique issues surrounding in-house counsel providing pro bono services, and consider how to address those issues in Leidos’ legal department.

In addition, the legal department pledged $10,000 toward pro bono efforts, donating $5,000 to the American Bar Association Veterans Claims Network. Another portion of the pledged funds will sponsor a CPBO Clinic in a Box® program where volunteers from the Leidos legal team will provide free legal advice to nonprofit clients.

To sponsor a pro bono ethics program or CPBO Clinic in a Box® program at your legal department or ACC chapter, please contact CPBO Director Tammy Sun.

** denotes a Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory

 

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