The PBEye

Pro Bono As We See It

Global Pro Bono

April 16, 2014

Making a Case for Pro Bono

For over a decade, PBI has promoted the “business case” for pro bono. Indeed, PBI’s research suggests that the benefits of pro bono outweigh the costs of starting and maintaining a pro bono program. In particular, pro bono engagement can help a law firm or legal department recruit and retain talent, develop the professional skills of its attorneys, and increase employee engagement.  This is a case PBI reiterated for law firms in a 2010 law review article and for in-house departments in a 2013 paper. So The PBEye was heartened to see the business case argument compellingly made this month in a piece by Jim Middlemiss in the Canadian Lawyer. As Paul Belanger, co-chair of the Financial Services Regulatory group and co-chair of the firm’s pro bono committee at Blake Cassels & Graydon  bluntly notes, “We’re in a war for talent. Young people want to be able to do something that is meaningful to them. You need to offer a robust pro bono program.”

Photo: Sara Tyson

Photo: Sara Tyson

The article cites four interest-based reasons for how law firms and legal departments can improve their performance while also doing good for society via pro bono:

  1. Better recruitment: Currently, most high school students are required to volunteer to secure their diploma. Attracting talent requires responding to this volunteering seed planted during their school days.
  2. Improved retention and training: Pro bono can provide opportunities for skills development and an opportunity for rewarding work — benefits which may reduce associate attrition and its significant economic costs.
  3. Corporate social responsibility: Canadian companies are increasingly involved in community initiatives, and their general counsels are examining metrics such as diversity and gender when choosing to hire law firms. Such metrics may increasingly include pro bono service. Firms that fail to engage in pro bono risk losing out on such selective clients.
  4. Increased profile and profitability: Middlemiss, citing PBI’s original 2000 paper, “Making the Business Case for Pro Bono,” notes that a major law firm’s managing partner quoted in that paper highlighted that every dollar spent on pro bono generated 10 times that value in good publicity and heightened visibility for the law firm.

Middlemiss closes with an urgent conclusion — there’s a survival case to be made for pro bono, so do it if you want your firm to stay in business.  A strong sentiment, but one with which The PBEye can agree!

March 28, 2014

Guest Blog: Pro Bono Legal Advice Opens the Tap to Provide Clean Water

Yasmin Batliwala  Chief Executive, A4ID

Yasmin Batliwala
Chief Executive, A4ID

March 22 marked the commemoration of World Water Day, an opportunity to focus public attention on critical issues relating to water. A key issue concerns the fact that 768 million people still do not have access to safe drinking water. Millions of people around the world are forced to choose between having to travel great distances to collect clean water or to drink water which is contaminated. Neither option is ideal. Children (and girls in particular) are often withdrawn from school to collect water for their families. And the consequences of drinking dirty water, as we already know, can lead to outbreaks of deadly waterborne diseases such as cholera and dysentery.

Another critical issue is the provision of sanitation facilities such as a hygienic toilet and water for hand washing. It is hard to imagine life without a toilet in this day and age, but for 2.5 billion people this is their reality. In the absence of adequate latrines, not only are diseases spread but people’s dignity is compromised. Additionally, rapid urban growth in developing countries is bringing new challenges as water pipes and sewage systems become overburdened.

Safe drinking water and adequate sanitation are essential in order for people to lead healthy and dignified lives. To this end, the UN has formally recognised that affordable, accessible, and safe water is a basic human right. Moreover, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which are aimed at galvanizing the international community to halve the number of people living in poverty, also recognize the importance of the right of access to clean, safe drinking water.

Our own work at A4ID focuses on the achievement of the MDGs and we source pro bono legal advice for development organizations working towards meeting at least one of the eight MDGs. For instance we have secured pro bono legal advice for our development partners such as WaterAid and Oxfam who are working on large-scale water projects. Furthermore, A4ID has worked specifically with U.S. law firms to provide pro bono legal advice to organizations such as The BARKA Foundation, which works in Burkina Faso. The Foundation has drilled wells, built toilets and conducted a hygiene promotion campaign. This is important work, as Burkina Faso is one of the most water-stressed nations on our planet, with high rates of waterborne diseases.

The BARKA Foundation has now received assistance from U.S. based law firms. By providing pro bono legal advice, these law firms enabled the Foundation to establish a partnership with a Ghanaian water filter factory. The BARKA Foundation also received pro bono legal advice from U.S. law firm Dechert*. The advice concerned an investment opportunity which posed risks, that the BARKA Foundation would have been unable to access on their own.

A well in Lampiadi, Burkina Faso, being drilled days before its scheduled official opening to the public on World Water Day. Photo: The BARKA Foundation

A well in Lampiadi, Burkina Faso, being drilled days before its scheduled official opening to the public on World Water Day. Photo: The BARKA Foundation

Mobilising the law and lawyers to help fight poverty is A4ID’s mission. Consider becoming involved and helping in this way.

Yasmin Batliwala
Chief Executive, A4ID
* denotes a Signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®


February 28, 2014

Global Pro Bono: Best Practices – March 6

This is the last of a series of posts detailing upcoming 2014 PBI Annual Conference sessions focused on global pro bono practice.  Having previously focused on international elements of the Pro Bono Expo Lunch and the new “Marketplace of Ideas: Global” session, we now turn to a recurring global pro bono favorite, the “Global Pro Bono: Best Practices” session.  This session is back by popular demand following successful iterations of this particular global session in 2012 and 2011 as well as a history of global pro bono-oriented sessions dating back to the inception of the Annual Conference.

This session takes place on Thursday, March 6, at 4:00 p.m., and will explore the practical nuts and bolts of turning a global pro bono concept into a reality.  Emphasis will be placed on the methodology of vetting and securing global pro bono projects.  If you have an idea for a new global pro bono project but are uncertain as to how to move forward, you won’t want to miss it!

February 21, 2014

Marketplace of Ideas: Global — March 6

Untitled_whiteWe are getting excited for the 2014 PBI Annual Conference  and hope you are too!  One of the perennial highlights of the Conference is the “Marketplace of Ideas” session, a fast paced opportunity for presenters to share unique or replicable pro bono projects.  Presenters identify real-world legal needs and explain how their projects are successfully addressing them.  In response to positive feedback, we have added a third Marketplace session to address unique or replicable global pro bono projects.  This session takes place on Thursday, March 6 at 1:30–2:30 p.m., and will feature topics such as:

  • Assisting nonprofits with submissions of reports to the U.N.;
  • Supporting a Cambodian nonprofit on behalf of dispossessed villagers with respect to land rights; and
  • Resolving claims regarding art works stolen during the Holocaust.

If you are interested in hearing about new ideas in the world of global pro bono, you won’t want to miss this new “Marketplace of Ideas: Global” session — we hope to see you there!

February 14, 2014

A Global Food Court


One of the most exciting events of our rapidly approaching 2014 PBI Annual Conference is the Pro Bono Expo Lunch taking place on Thursday, March 6.  The PBEye previously provided a sneak peek of public interest organizations to be featured at the Expo.  As we noted in January, this will be a unique opportunity to network and develop productive relationships with many public interest organizations from across the U.S. and around the world.

Those interested in learning more about global pro bono might view the Expo as a “global food court” since it features the following organizations discussing international topics:

To register for the Conference and to take advantage of this wonderful networking opportunity, click here.  We hope to see you there!

February 7, 2014

Global Pro Bono Practitioners – You’re Invited!



The PBEye invites global pro bono practitioners to join us March 5-7 at the 2014 PBI Annual Conference in Washington, D.C.  Each year PBI brings together pro bono leaders from law firms, legal departments, and public interest organizations from around the world to meet with and learn from each other to improve access to justice through pro bono.

In response to growing interest in pro bono projects around the world, this year the PBI Annual Conference is dedicating two sessions to global pro bono on Thursday, March 6:

Marketplace of Ideas: Global, 1:30-2:30 pm
As previously announced, this year we are featuring a globally oriented Marketplace of Ideas session.  This fast-paced program will feature brief presentations on global pro bono projects and an opportunity to share information and learn about new opportunities, offerings, and other global pro bono developments.

Global Pro Bono: Best Practices, 4:00-5:00 pm

Do you have an idea for a new global pro bono project, but are uncertain as to how to move forward?  This discussion will explore the practical nuts and bolts of turning a global pro bono concept into a reality.  Emphasis will be placed on the methodology of vetting and securing global pro bono projects.

Stay tuned for an overview of other Conference events.  For an up-to-date list of sessions, click here. To register for the Annual Conference, click here.  If you have questions, please send us an email.

January 24, 2014

In-House Pro Bono in Australia

This week The PBEye takes a look at pro bono down under where Telstra, one of the largest in-house legal departments in Australia, has expanded the company’s responsibility to be a good corporate citizen to include legal pro bono work.  Working with Justice Connect, the new name for the merged Public Interest Law Clearing Houses of the states of New South Wales and Victoria, Telstra’s legal department has provided hundreds of hours of pro bono assistance to underserved communities throughout Australia.

The push to engage in direct legal services came from the legal team at Telstra.  A department of about 180 lawyers, the legal staff desired to take a hands-on approach to pro bono.  As Telstra’s General Counsel Carmel Mulhern describes it, “We are a really large, if not the largest, in-house legal team for a corporate [entity], and we feel we have a role and a responsibility to give something back to those less fortunate and to give something back to the community.”  Mulhern says the legal department is just like other parts of the company when it comes to having “good corporate citizen” responsibilities.

Pro bono matters referred by Justice Connect to Telstra are typically undertaken in the offices of community legal centers or Salvos Legal, the Salvation Army law firm, and selected based on the expertise and interests of the lawyers involved.  Telstra’s legal department has also provided pro bono legal advice for Aboriginal artists in the Northern Territory and Western Australia on trips organized by the Arts Law Centre.

Not surprisingly, the dividends of this effort have not only benefited Telstra’s pro bono clients but have brought great value to volunteers as well.  As Mulhern notes, “For Telstra, the benefit is that I have a team that feels really good about working here.  They can still do mergers and acquisitions or a huge contract . . . but this makes them feel really good about being lawyers.”

January 7, 2014

A New Year, A New Pro Bono Program

PBI Word Cloud
With the New Year upon us, The PBEye can’t help but think about the possibilities for pro bono in 2014. Last year was filled with accomplishments, but, as we all know, the need for pro bono legal services continues. What are your pro bono plans for 2014? Do they include one or more of the following?

  • Starting a pro bono program
  • Improving participation rates among your lawyers and staff in the U.S. and around the world
  • Partnering with a legal department, law firm, or legal services organization
  • Developing a new pro bono project or launching a signature project
  • Engaging in a global pro bono project
  • Conducting a self-assessment of your pro bono program to identify areas of strength and aspects that need improvement
  • Advocating for better practice rules, ethics opinions, and guidelines that promote, rather than restrict, the provision pro bono legal services
  • Researching the legal needs of your community to determine the areas of greatest need
  • Cultivating new pro bono leaders at your firm or legal department to ensure long-term viability and continuity of your program
  • Attending the premiere pro bono event of the year, the 2014 Pro Bono Institute Annual Conference

Whether your specific 2014 goals are captured above or not, the Law Firm Pro Bono, Corporate Pro Bono, and Global Pro Bono projects are here to help you identify and select your pro bono goals and work with your law firm or legal department to achieve them! You may also want to consider becoming a Signatory to the CPBO Challenge® or the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®.

Here’s to a pro bono-filled New Year!

November 15, 2013

The December 2004 Tsunami: A Global Pro Bono “Tipping Point” for Deloitte

PBI was honored to recognize Deloitte Financial Advisory Services (FAS) LLP with the first-ever PBI President’s Award, presented at the 2013 PBI Annual Dinner on November 7 in New York.  Among its many contributions, Deloitte FAS has provided invaluable assistance to PBI, enhancing and refining PBI’s collection and analysis of annual pro bono performance data for its Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® reports.  The company is also working with PBI, Merck & Co., Inc.**, and others on the Pro Bono Measurement Project, a comprehensive process to enable law firms and legal departments to measure the societal good and business benefits of their pro bono work.  As PBI President and CEO Esther F. Lardent explained when announcing the award:  

Deloitte is receiving PBI’s first-ever President’s Award because of its notable pro bono culture and its work with PBI to creatively craft solutions for the betterment of our communities.  The leadership at Deloitte** has successfully adopted pro bono as part of its culture and continues to demonstrate how valuable and effective pro bono collaboration can be.

The story of how Deloitte transformed its approach to pro bono — from ad-hoc to systematic — from something done on one’s own time into something recognized as part of Deloitte’s normal business — begins with a global pro bono “tipping point” for Deloitte.  In the wake of the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Deloitte heard the call to help.  It joined forces with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) on tsunami reconstruction and provided over 14,000 hours of pro bono financial advisory, consulting, and audit and risk work to affected countries, ultimately helping the UN to more quickly and efficiently distribute relief funds to affected areas.

Although Deloitte also made a sizeable cash contribution to tsunami relief, the value of its services far outweighed its financial donation.  Deloitte recognized that sharing its knowledge and experience with nonprofit organizations held the potential for immediate and sustainable community impact.  As noted in Deloitte’s 2012 Pro Bono Report, Insight No. 4, although corporate philanthropy and nonprofit development has traditionally focused on cash donations, the donation of time and expertise represents an extremely valuable resource:

It became clear to us that, while our cash philanthropic budget was limited, we had other resources “in the bank.”  Rather than limit our donations to money that nonprofits would then spend on professional services, why not structure major gifts with both cash and pro bono components? We would end up giving more than we could in cash alone, and the nonprofit would get highly valuable assistance.

Since the events of 2004, Deloitte has solidified its commitment to pro bono work.  Its “business as usual” incorporation of pro bono into its culture and mindset includes an annual financial commitment to pro bono activities, a systematic and deliberate approach where results are measured, and a strategic methodology to select pro bono opportunities that have an impact on the community, aligned with Deloitte’s own philanthropic principles. As a result, since 2008, Deloitte has delivered more than 1,000 projects, with more than 4,400 professionals giving close to 365,000 hours.

In addition, Deloitte’s commitment to the global dimension of pro bono has continued, including its assistance to nonprofits in the wake of Haiti’s January 2010 earthquake.  More currently, Deloitte professionals are supporting the 2015 Special Olympics by delivering a wide range of high-impact work, including budgeting, business and operations planning, and strategic advisory work.

Deloitte FAS CEO David Williams accepted the President’s Award on Deloitte’s behalf on November 7.  In a moving acceptance speech, Williams recognized Deloitte’s employees for “giving it their all,” even as he recognized that “none of them, I can tell you, thinks we’re anywhere near done in terms of what we can do.”

Well said, and PBI looks forward to its ongoing collaboration with a company whose pro bono efforts continue to have a positive impact around the globe.

** denotes a Signatory to the Corporate Pro Bono ChallengeSM

October 25, 2013

London Calling: A Roundtable Discussion on Pro Bono in Today’s U.K.

PBI returns to London for the second time in two weeks on October 27, and will meet with a number of law firms and nonprofit organizations working on pro bono matters.  With the U.K.’s National Pro Bono Week fast approaching, discussion of the current challenges of pro bono practice in Britain is a timely topic.  It is one that a prominent group of pro bono lawyers and professionals recently discussed and debated at a roundtable convened by the Law Society Gazette, the official magazine of the Law Society of England and Wales, a roundtable participant.  The roundtable’s other participants were representatives of Hogan Lovells*†, Clifford Chance, OH Parsons, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer†, TLT Solicitors, LawWorks, RCJ Advice Bureau, and the Bar Council.

The roundtable discussion touched on a variety of observations, including the fact that pro bono hour contributions over the last two decades have risen significantly among many British firms and legal departments.  In addition, the Law Society has found that there is genuine enthusiasm for pro bono work in the legal profession.  Finally, roundtable participants agreed that the public may not always be aware of the positive contributions lawyers make through their pro bono work because such work is not always publicized.  As one roundtable participant stated, “Asked why we do pro bono work, the answer is simply that we have always done pro bono.”

London is calling, and PBI is on its way to learn more!

* denotes a Signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®
denotes a Member of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project

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