The PBEye

Pro Bono As We See It

Law Firm Pro Bono

June 22, 2017

Measuring the Justice Gap

Last week, the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) released a report, The Justice Gap: Measuring the Unmet Civil Legal Needs of Low-Income Americans,”  which is the result of a survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago of 2,000 Americans living at or below 125% of the Federal Poverty Level.  The report takes a detailed look at documents the extent of the “the justice gap,” which  LSC defines “as the difference between the civil legal needs of low-income Americans and the resources available to meet those needs.”

Key findings include:

  • Seventy-one percent of low-income households experienced at least one civil legal problem during the past year in areas such as healthcare, housing conditions, disability access, veterans’ benefits, education, and domestic violence.
  • In 2016, 86 percent of the civil legal problems reported by low-income Americans received inadequate or no legal help.
  • Low-income Americans seek legal help for only 20 percent of their civil legal problems.
  • In 2017, it is estimated that low-income individuals will contact LSC-funded legal aid organizations for support with 1.7 million problems. However, they will receive limited or no legal help for more than half (1.1 million of these problems due to inadequate resources).

University of Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh was among the speakers at a launch event for the report. “I may be a football coach,” he said, “but I am an American first and foremost, and all Americans should care about equal access to justice.” He continued, noting that it’s “about fundamental fairness…if you have money, you have access to justice. If you don’t have money, you have less access to our justice system, and that’s not the way it should work.”

To learn more about LSC and its current challenges and opportunities, check out our recent interview with Ronald Flagg on the Law Firm Pro Bono Project’s Podcast, the Pro Bono Happy Hour. The episode is available on Apple Podcasts and YouTube.

June 19, 2017

It’s Pro Bono Podcast Monday

Don’t miss the latest episode of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project’s podcast, the Pro Bono Happy Hour, featuring Ronald Flagg of the Legal Services Corporation. Ron talks to us about his career, his transition to LSC from private practice, his experience leading a law firm pro bono program while he was at Sidley Austin*†, LSC’s current challenges and opportunities, and more.

Subscribe to the Pro Bono Happy Hour on Apple Podcasts and be sure to leave a review! We’d appreciate the feedback and it would help us expand the conversation about access to justice. The podcast is also available on YouTube. Links to all of our episodes can be found here.

Listen along and let us know what you think. Send your comments, thoughts, feedback, questions, and suggestions to probono@probonoinst.org. Be warned: we might just read them on the air.

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

June 15, 2017

The State of Law Firm Pro Bono

One hundred thirty-five law firms collectively reported increases in total pro bono hours, pro bono hours for those of limited means, attorney participation rates, and charitable giving to legal services organizations, according to PBI’s Law Firm Pro Bono Project’s recently released Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® Report.  This annual report examines the pro bono activities of signatories to the Challenge, a unique, aspirational standard. More good news? Lives are being improved, rights are being protected, and access to justice is being advanced every day.

Among the many takeaways from this year’s Report:  firms are surpassing their challenge goals. Fifty-six percent of firms either performed the same amount or increased their pro bono hours over 2015. Twenty percent of firms reported significant expansion (in excess of 20% over 2015), demonstrating that major growth is possible. As always, we are grateful to our signatories for their dedication to improving access to justice and leading the way in pro bono service.

Check out the complete Challenge Report including analysis of the data, additional information regarding firm size and pro bono, detailed graphs, and more. Stay tuned to The PBEye for more highlights from this year’s Challenge Report, and the Law Firm Project’s discussion of the Report on our podcast, the Pro Bono Happy Hour.

If your firm of 50 or more lawyers would like to join the Challenge, please contact Law Firm Pro Bono Project Assistant Elysse DeRita.

June 12, 2017

It’s Pro Bono Podcast Monday

Don’t miss the latest episode of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project’s podcast, the Pro Bono Happy Hour, featuring Julie Orr of Davis Wright Tremaine*†. Julie talks to us about the firm’s pro bono program, pro bono valentines and heart of justice award, medical-legal partnerships, supporting survivors of domestic violence, and more.

Subscribe to the Pro Bono Happy Hour in iTunes. Be sure to rate us on iTunes! We’d appreciate the feedback and it would help us expand the conversation about access to justice. The podcast is also available on YouTube. Links to all of our episodes can be found here.

Listen along and let us know what you think. Send your comments, thoughts, feedback, questions, and suggestions to probono@probonoinst.org. Be warned: we might just read them on the air.

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

June 8, 2017

Act Now!

It’s Law Firm Pro Bono Project membership season. Complete and return the 2017-2018 membership enrollment form now to publicly demonstrate your firm’s support for pro bono. Submit your form before September 1 to receive a 10 percent discount.

Why wait? Renew or join today so you don’t lose the many valuable benefits available exclusively to Law Firm Project members, such as free publications, webinars, and the members-only section in the Project’s Resource Clearinghouse.

As a member firm, you will have access to a variety of additional services and resources designed to help you create and maintain a successful pro bono program, such as expert consultative services and discounted registration to the PBI Annual Conference. Please contact Law Firm Pro Bono Project Assistant Elysse DeRita, if you have any questions.

Special thanks to our first member firms for 2017-2018: Akerman†; Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld*†; Baker Botts*†; Blake, Cassels & Graydon†; Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck*†; Bryan Cave*†; Cozen O’Connor*†; DLA Piper*†; Drinker Biddle & Reath*†; Holland & Knight*†; Hunton & Williams*†; Kasowitz Benson Torres†, Katten Muchin Rosenman†; McDermott Will & Emery*†; Morgan, Lewis & Bockius*†; Seyfarth Shaw*†; and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom*†.

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

June 5, 2017

It’s Pro Bono Podcast Monday

Don’t miss the latest episode of  the Law Firm Pro Bono Project’s podcast, the Pro Bono Happy Hour,  featuring Bill Belitsky of Paul Hastings*†. Bill talks to us about why pro bono isn’t just for litigators, his career, the firm’s pro bono program, and more.

Subscribe to the Pro Bono Happy Hour in iTunes. Be sure to rate us on iTunes! We’d appreciate the feedback and it would help us expand the conversation about access to justice. The podcast is also available on YouTube. Links to all of our episodes can be found here.

Listen along and let us know what you think. Send your comments, thoughts, feedback, questions, and suggestions to probono@probonoinst.org. Be warned: we might just read them on the air.

* denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® Signatory
† denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Project® Member

 

June 1, 2017

Pro Bono for Mother Nature

As the days grow longer and the sun shines brighter, we are all eager to head outside and enjoy the summer season. Spending time outdoors reminds us how valuable and important it is to preserve our natural environment.  As we have previously reported, there are many opportunities that bypass both traditional and business conflicts for pro bono lawyers to use their legal skills to further environmental protections.

A number of Law Firm Pro Bono Project member firms and Challenge® signatories are devoting significant time and resources to eco pro bono work.  Notable examples include:

  • Baker McKenzie* represented the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in a lawsuit against the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) for polluting the Chicago River System. Three of MWRD’s sewage treatment plants were dumping excess phosphorous into the river system, causing an explosion of algae blooms. Algae blooms are a threat to nearby organisms because they deprive the water of oxygen, leading the organisms to die. Baker McKenzie helped the NRDC reach a settlement with the MWRD that requires the MWRD to upgrade their pollution controls by 2030, and mandates the MWRD join a committee dedicated to creating plans to eliminate algal issues in the most problematic areas.
  • Covington & Burling* advised SolarAid, and its social enterprise arm SunnyMoney, in their work to alleviate poverty in Africa by building a sustainable market for solar lights, which will create new jobs and inject money into the local economy. Their mission is to eradicate the use of unhealthy and unsafe kerosene lamps by 2020.
  • DLA Piper* worked with the United for Wildlife Transport Industry Taskforce to crack down on illegal wildlife trafficking routes.
  • Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson* successfully represented Conservation International in its effort to create a marine sanctuary off the coast of Belize. The sanctuary will be used to protect the world’s only known gathering site for the largest fish, the whale shark.
  • Hogan Lovells* represented The Barefoot College, which connects rural communities to solar, water, education, professionals, and advocacy efforts to help communities and individuals take control of their lives, wellbeing, and communities. One effort helped train 400 women in 35 different countries to become solar engineers. These women, often called “solar mamas,” will help bring light to over 20,000 homes.
  • White & Case* provided significant legal research to WaterLex, which works to secure the human rights to water and sanitation through law and policy reform. Approximately 50 lawyers across ten offices researched existing water legislation in five countries as part of a “Country Water Governance Mapping” effort.

In addition, the firm is addressing the collateral consequences of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, by joining forces with the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and the Education Law Center to file a class-action lawsuit on behalf of children in Flint, who were exposed to lead-contaminated water.  Lead exposure impairs cognition and is associated with an array of learning and behavioral challenges. These children, however, have been denied the special education services that are their right under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and Michigan state law.

Through their time and effort, pro bono lawyers can make a significant and meaningful impact, while fulfilling our responsibility to be good stewards of the planet. To learn more about pro bono opportunities and strategic partnerships with public interest and advocacy organizations, check out the Law Firm Pro Bono Project’s publication Saving the Planet, One Pro Bono Matter at a Time, which is available in our Resource Clearinghouse.

* denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® Signatory
† denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Project® Member

Hat tip to PBI interns Kelsey Muniz and Patrick MacDonald for their help with this post.

May 25, 2017

Pro Bono Summer Reading

Interested in a good read for the upcoming long weekend? Check out Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Harvard University Associate Professor and Co-Director of the Justice and Poverty Project, Matthew Desmond.

It’s been described by The New York Times as “an astonishing book,” and we agree. Desmond takes readers into the heart and homes of eight families in Milwaukee, America’s fourth poorest city, as they struggle to maintain their housing. Using on-the-ground research and data, Desmond explores poverty, economic exploitation, income inequality, housing, and race at a time when 1 in 8 tenants have faced involuntary dislocation. Evicted reads like a novel and helps you realize that you cannot have a meaningful conversation about social justice without talking about housing. This pick is essential to better understand and serve our pro bono clients.

If you would like to learn more about the Pulitzer Prize-winning, Evicted, tune in to our guest spot on The New York Public Library’s podcast, The Librarian Is In, and check out our discussion with Milwaukee’s Dawn Caldart of Quarles & Brady*† on the Law Firm Project’s podcast, the Pro Bono Happy Hour.

 

* denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® Signatory
† denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Project® Member

 

May 22, 2017

It’s Pro Bono Podcast Monday

Don’t miss the latest episode of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project’s podcast, the Pro Bono Happy Hour, “You’ve Got Mail.” In part two, the Law Firm Pro Bono Project answers questions from listeners about the 2017 PBI Conference, what’s keeping us busy these days, and our upcoming annual Report on the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® initiative.  Do you have questions about law firm pro bono?  Send them to us at probono@probonoinst.org and they may be featured on an upcoming episode. Feel free to also share your comments, thoughts, feedback, and suggestions.

Subscribe to the Pro Bono Happy Hour in iTunes. Be sure to rate us on iTunes! We’d appreciate the feedback and it would help us expand the conversation about access to justice. The podcast is also available on YouTube. If you missed part one of our mega-mailbag, links to all of our episodes can be found here.

May 18, 2017

Check Your Mailbox

Summer associates are arriving and recruiting season at major law firms will be here before we know it. Many law students are looking to join firms where pro bono is an integral part of the culture. We are honored to be able to promote our Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® signatories and their demonstrated commitment to pro bono. As part of these efforts, the Law Firm Pro Bono Project recently distributed its annual Challenge poster to the career services offices of all ABA-accredited law schools. The poster lists every Challenge signatory, raises the visibility of these firms to make them more attractive to the very students they are trying to recruit, and is an easy reference for students looking for future employers who have a strong pro bono ethos.

Be sure to hang your poster with pride in all of your offices to raise the visibility of pro bono within the firm as well. Firms with 50 or more lawyers are welcome to join the Challenge at any point in the year. Please contact Law Firm Project Assistant Elysse DeRita for information on becoming a Challenge signatory or for additional posters.

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