I have been attending the PBI Annual Conference for several years and have had the opportunity to present to and speak with many of the participants. However, this year was a truly unique experience for me.
The first thing that struck me was the increased number of familiar faces. Based on my observations, it seemed like more and more people were refreshing connections. While making new connections is a key component of this Conference, having these established connections allowed participants to jump straight into a higher level of conversation. Instead of being asked “What type of projects are you doing?” I heard questions like “How is that new project that you kicked off last year doing?” The result was deeper discussions around successes and obstacles. And, instead of just nods of understanding, I heard more recommendations for overcoming those obstacles.
Seeing all of this in just the first few hours of the Conference, I decided to take a detour into the “In-House Pro Bono: The Basics” session for those starting or re-launching a pro bono program. While Hewlett-Packard Company** is definitely not in this category, I thought it would be nice to be a fly on the wall and hear how more and more companies are creating programs. When I walked into the room, I immediately noticed how much smaller this space was compared to when I first attended this session several years ago. To my surprise, only a few attendees were actually from companies starting brand-new programs. In fact, there were several “flies” like me at this session. This was a pleasure for me to see knowing how much bigger the “established program” session was in comparison and relative to my first year attending the Conference.
There has been a shift, and it is monumental. As a representative of the in-house community, I am proud to see that in-house attorneys are becoming more involved in pro bono and becoming experts in this area. I am also excited to see the evolution of the PBI Annual Conference as many of us begin to advance into “graduate-level” topics. And for those of you that are just starting out, there is now more knowledge and experience than ever before that you can leverage. This is a win for us, a win for PBI, and most importantly a win for the communities that we live in and serve.
Todd Tabor is Associate General Counsel, HP Enterprise Security Products and created HP’s DC Area Pro Bono program.
**denotes a Signatory to the Corporate Pro Bono Challenge®