The PBEye

Pro Bono As We See It

PBI News

April 25, 2014

Remembering Rubin “Hurricane” Carter

Rubin_Carter_4The PBEye is saddened to learn of the death of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a former professional boxer who became a symbol of racial injustice in the U.S. After 19 years on death row for a triple murder, Carter was exonerated with the help of his pro bono attorneys.

After his release, Carter became the first Executive Director of the Association in Defense of the Wrongly Convicted in Toronto, serving from 1993 to 2004. He campaigned on behalf of criminal justice reform and fought tirelessly to free those unjustly imprisoned. From his deathbed, Carter wrote a column in February in which he advocated for the release of two specific prisoners he believed are innocent.

Carter’s experiences and advocacy impacted many attorneys and motivated them to do pro bono work on behalf of death row inmates. His legacy as a symbol of hope for those wrongly convicted will endure and continue to inspire lawyers to do meaningful and much-needed pro bono work. “To live in a world where truth matters and justice, however late, really happens, that world would be heaven enough for us all.” Rubin Carter

August 8, 2013

Esther F. Lardent Recognized as AmLaw Top Innovator


PBI President and CEO Esther F. Lardent

The PBEye takes great pleasure in congratulating PBI President and CEO Esther F. Lardent on being recognized as one of The American Lawyer’s top 50 innovators! This special honor recognizes individuals in the legal field who have been innovative thinkers and doers, and as a result have made a significant impact in the legal community. Lardent is joined by a remarkable group of innovators including former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman.

“I am personally honored and quite humbled to receive this award. I am deeply indebted to the PBI staff, the PBI Board, the Law Firm Pro Bono Project Advisory Committee, the Corporate Pro Bono Advisory Board, and the countless volunteers who have all played a major role in helping transform the pro bono culture in law firms and legal departments around the world,” Lardent said.

We congratulate all of the honorees and encourage them to keep up the good work!

Read the article on Lardent, “Raising the Bar,” online at The American Lawyer and read the full list here: The American Lawyer’s Top 50 Innovators.

March 7, 2013

Remembering Bricker Lavik

LavikWe at The PBEye were extremely saddened to learn of the death of our good friend and pro bono champion Bricker Lavik on March 1.  For us, Mr. Lavik’s legacy is one of genuine commitment to serving others, particularly those most in need, and recruiting others to serve as well.  We send our deepest condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues at Dorsey & Whitney LLP*.  Below is a brief notice on Mr. Lavik’s passing courtesy of our friends at Dorsey.

It is with deep regret that I inform you that our colleague and good friend Bricker Lavik died on Friday, March 1, 2013. Bricker is survived by his beloved wife, Tonja Orr.

Bricker Lavik started his legal career as an attorney at the Legal Aid Society. In that role he represented clients in cases involving consumer credit, garnishments, repossessions, evictions, government benefits and more. He brought three Department of Housing and Urban Development administrative complaints resulting in the creation of 784 new units of low-income housing. He was lead counsel in a class action case raising deceptive trade practices claims, resulting in rent abatement claims procedures for tenants in a 100 unit apartment building.

Bricker joined Dorsey in 1986 and continued his efforts to ensure that low-income clients receive access to legal services by doing Pro Bono work and serving on numerous committees and boards. Because of Bricker’s leadership, Dorsey joined the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge as a charter signatory in 1993 and successfully achieved that Challenge for 20 consecutive years.

Bricker was the soul and conscience of Pro Bono and as such, received many recognitions including the Hennepin County Bar Association’s Distinguished Service Award in 2006 and Dorsey’s first ever Pro Bono Award for Distinguished Service in 2012. His commitment to serving the public was deep and pervasive. Humble and selfless, Bricker inspired us all never to rest on our laurels.

Bricker’s personal and professional passion for justice were among his most enduring qualities. He remained vibrant and vital through the most extreme health challenges imaginable. He seized every moment not because it could be his last but because he understood moments are to be seized.

Rather than battle these various maladies, he accepted their truth and dealt with them rationally, working as an eager partner with many outstanding medical professionals most notably his primary care team at the Mayo Clinic.

In the wake of this heartbreaking news, I am reminded of what a great inspiration Bricker was to so many people. He was a kind, generous, undaunted and wonderful person. And for this, we are grateful and our world is truly a better place.

It is worth noting that Bricker had a heart transplant in July 2000, shortly after being diagnosed with a rare heart disease. If it wasn’t for the generosity of the donor and the donor’s grieving family, think of all our Pro Bono world would have missed out on. I would guess that literally thousands of additional pro bono clients were reached, and many additional pro bono projects started, and pro bono professionals inspired, because of Bricker’s successful heart transplant. A wonderful tribute to Bricker as we all grieve, may be to make sure we are all organ donors. And of course, he would tell us to get out there and get more done to help those in need of our legal services!

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

January 7, 2013

Remembering a Champion of Pro Bono

Bill-McBride-PhotoThe PBEye is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Bill McBride, a dear friend to the Pro Bono Institute and a passionate leader who championed pro bono for society’s most vulnerable members.  His death is a profound loss for his beloved family,  the legal profession, and the pro bono cause.  His legendary wisdom, humor, exuberance, and larger-than-life personality will be greatly missed by all who knew him.

McBride’s lifelong dedication to service began when he voluntarily enlisted in the Marines, serving in combat in Vietnam.  As managing partner of Holland & Knight LLP*, he built upon the culture of pro bono initiated by his friend and mentor, Chesterfield Smith, and continually reminded fellow attorneys that they too had a responsibility to “do good.”

Buddy Schulz, a close friend of McBride’s and a partner at Holland & Knight, said “[McBride] showed me perpetually that we, as lawyers, could not simply work for ourselves and our clients; that we, as lawyers, must discharge our professional  obligations always to help others.”

McBride played a pivotal role in the Pro Bono Institute, serving as Co-Chair of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project from 1997-2001 and lending his expertise and judgment to the project at a critical moment in its history.  He was also one of the leaders of Lawyers for One America initiative of the Clinton Administration, led by now-Attorney General Eric Holder, that brought together the leaders of the legal profession in the U.S. to forge a plan to enhance diversity in the profession and to increase pro bono service to people and communities of color.

At a White House ceremony launching the Lawyers for One America initiative, he spoke of the importance of pro bono and diversity, noting that “[R]evenues per lawyer, profits per partner or profitability indexes don’t measure the right things. Those statistics measure everything about the practice of law except what makes us proud to be lawyers.  [As for diversity], the current minority hiring pool is simply too small—law schools must give us more minority law graduates. Give us the lawyers; we will give them the opportunities to succeed.”

“We owe a debt of gratitude to this man of extraordinary intellect and spirit who spent so much of his life helping others,” PBI President and CEO Esther F. Lardent said.  “He will be greatly missed, and he will always be remembered for his example of service and his commitment to pro bono.  Our deepest sympathies go out to his family, friends and colleagues.”

Read McBride’s obituary at The New York Times.

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

September 13, 2012

Thanks for the Hard Work and Memories!

We’ve had a busy few months at PBI and have benefited greatly from the contributions of our summer interns.  We welcomed our third class of Sheehan Scholars this year.  Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP‘s*† Bob Sheehan and his family provided the financial support to launch this program in 2010, which has been named in his honor and in recognition of his extraordinary pro bono leadership.

The 2012 Sheehan Scholars were two impressive law students: Lauren Epstein (University of Michigan Law School) and Sheryl Golkow (University of Pennsylvania Law School).  We are grateful to the Sheehan family for their generosity and to Lauren and Sherri for spending their summers with us.  They were joined by two terrific undergraduates from the University of Michigan: Kristyn Acho and Ben Gloger.  The four interns worked on a variety of projects – large and small – for Corporate Pro Bono, the Law Firm Pro Bono Project, and our communications department.  You’ve already seen the fruits of their labors and will continue to do so in the weeks and months ahead.

PBI is grateful for their hard work and dedication.  We especially enjoyed their energy and fresh perspectives.  We are also appreciative of the firms and individuals, such as Venable LLP*†, Amanda Hollis (PBI intern alum), and her firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP*†, who support our summer program by inviting our interns to events and donating time to provide additional professional development opportunities.

If you know of a student or lawyer who may be interested in spending time working or volunteering at PBI, please send an inquiry to

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

August 3, 2012

CPBO Skyrockets Pro Bono Efforts

Houston may be well known for its contributions to space technology, but it is also a hub of business in the Southwest.  Naturally, it was the perfect location for PBI’s July 26 Regional Leadership Convocation with legal departments in the region to discuss their role in addressing the crisis in access to justice through pro bono service.  The meeting was hosted by Fulbright Jaworski L.L.P.* and included representatives from American Airlines, Inc.**, Dell Inc.**, ExxonMobil Corporation, Halliburton Company, Marathon Oil Corporation**, Shell Oil Company**, The Williams Companies**, and WPX Energy, Inc.

Stewart Gagnon, chair of Fulbright’s pro bono committee, welcomed the attendees and highlighted the importance of law firms and legal departments working collaboratively to improve pro bono.  CPBO Director Eve Runyon described the national picture as well as the current state of access to justice in the Southwest.  She noted that in 2010, 15.1 percent of all Americans lived below the poverty line, and in the Southwest between 16.3 to 20.5 percent of residents lived below the line.

Attendees discussed common challenges facing them as leaders of in-house pro bono programs and considered innovative strategies that would strengthen the impact of the services the lawyers and other professional staff in their departments provide and that improve the efficiency of their pro bono programs.  Topics they touched on included:

  • expanding and deepening pro bono involvement within the department;
  • actively engaging management in pro bono;
  • identifying meaningful pro bono initiatives;
  • developing desktop pro bono projects that can serve rural areas;
  • creating projects that serve clients where they live;
  • eliminating state practice restrictions on in-house pro bono; and
  • creating collaborations among legal departments and other organizations.

The event ended with discussion of how legal departments can continue to work together to share knowledge and leverage resources and how PBI and CPBO can assist with these efforts.

The PBEye is excited to report that the departments that met in Houston demonstrated that hardships should not serve as an inhibitor to quality pro bono work but instead be an opportunity to improve. Legal departments in the Southwest are shooting for the stars when it comes to in-house pro bono.

To learn more about CPBO or in-house pro bono, please contact CPBO Director Eve Runyon.

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

Hat tip to PBI intern Ben Gloger for his help on this post.

June 27, 2012

Webinar Recap: Veterans Pro Bono

Last week PBI hosted a webinar exploring veterans-related pro bono opportunities and developments.  Bruce Ives, vice president and deputy general counsel, Hewlett-Packard Company**, moderated the panel, which included Ronald Flagg, partner, Sidley Austin LLP*†, and chairman of the board, National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP); Rick Little, director, Center for Veterans Advancement (CVA) at Public Counsel Law Center; Margaret Middleton, co-founder and executive director, Connecticut Veterans Legal Center (CVLC); and Amanda Smith, pro bono partner at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP*†.

Flagg spoke about NVLSP’s free legal services for veterans and their families, which focuses on assisting veterans obtain proper disability benefits.  NVLSP works with volunteer attorneys and staff at more than one hundred law firms and legal departments, including Sidley Austin and Morgan Lewis

Smith reported on Morgan Lewis’s broad veterans program and in particular its work with NVLSP on the class-action lawsuit Sabo et al. v. United States, which resulted in thousands of veterans who had been discharged due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder receiving additional benefits

Ives added information about HP’s collaboration with both NVLSP and Morgan Lewis on veterans pro bono matters, including providing individual representation to the class members of Sabo and assisting veterans with their applications for combat-related special compensation.  There are several great features to this type of work, including  opportunities for attorneys and other professional staff to participate, as well as the option to work remotely and at off hours.  Flagg, Smith, and Ives stressed the high-level of enthusiasm for assisting veterans among their colleagues, even those who typically are hesitant to get involved in pro bono.

Next, Little and Middleton discussed their respective organizations and some of the cutting edge developments in veterans pro bono that they have seen. Both organizations look to address any and all legal issues of needy veterans, which include not only obtaining benefits, but also matters related to housing, consumer issues, and family law.  In fact, Little reports that the number one issue veterans report to CVA is ticket and warrant resolution.  Staff at CVA and CLVC assist in all of these areas by working with numerous pro bono attorneys, screening clients and providing training and support.  In addition to working with volunteers on legal matters, both organizations support a holistic approach to veteran services.  CVLC, which is dedicated to veterans living in Connecticut, provides the legal element to an interdisciplinary team that includes mental health providers.   Meanwhile, CVA, which assists U.S. veterans in the country and abroad, has begun working with the University of Southern California School for Social Work to engage its students in assisting veteran clients of pro bono attorneys as they are also receiving legal help. 

Missed it?  Don’t worry — the program will be available on-demand soon.  In-house participants should contact CPBO Project Assistant Eric Florenz for registration information.  Law Firm Pro Bono Project Member law firms should contact Law Firm Project Assistant Christine Sutherland for the promotional code to register.  CLE credit is available for this program in many states.

Check back often for other online offerings and join us for our next webinar program Thursday, June 28 at 1 p.m. EDT, “Pro Bono and the Crisis in Legal Aid”, featuring PBI’s Esther F. Lardent and James J. Sandman, president of the Legal Services Corporation.

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

May 25, 2012

Pro Bono Summer Reading

Looking for a pro bono-themed book to read this summer?  Last year, our reading suggestions included the best-selling The Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksAs we kick off the unofficial start of summer this holiday weekend, we thought we would highlight a Pulitzer Prize-winning classic.  Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, published in 1960, has become a novel near and dear to many lawyers’ hearts.

Atticus Finch, a middle-aged lawyer and single father who skillfully raises his children in a small town in Alabama, is appointed by the court to defend Tom Robinson, an African-American accused of raping a white woman.   Although many of the town’s citizens disapprove, Atticus agrees to defend Tom on a pro bono basis.  Not only does Atticus defend his client, but he ultimately fights against the town’s deep-seeded racism that allowed his client to be charged in the first place.  This novel is a great read that not only highlights the importance of pro bono service, including representing unpopular clients and causes, but also touches on issues of race, morality, parenting, friendship, gender, and ethics.

Many believe that the fictional Atticus Finch embodies the characteristics and professionalism of a model lawyer and reminds many why they joined the legal profession in the first place.  (The American Film Institute voted Atticus Finch, who was portrayed in the film adaptation of the book by Gregory Peck, as the “Greatest Hero in American Film.”  The movie is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year to much fanfare.)  If it’s been a while since you last read this classic, toss a copy into your beach bag (or download it to your e-reader) and remind yourself of your commitment to justice and what every lawyer practicing today aspires to be.

Do you have any pro bono-related summer reading recommendations?  Leave us a comment and let us know.

January 18, 2012

Calling All Good Global Citizens!

On February 7, at 12:00 p.m. EST, CPBO and PBI’s Global Pro Bono Project are bringing you an exciting webinar, “Exploring In-House Global Pro Bono.”  In-house leaders Bruce Ives, vice president and deputy general counsel at Hewlett-Packard Company**; Esteban Mazzucco, legal director for Latin America South at Syngenta; and Michael Sposato, deputy general counsel at Caterpillar Inc.**, will share their experiences and perspectives on doing global pro bono work.  Topics to be tackled by our trio of experts include:

    • identifying quality global pro bono partners and projects;
    • structuring and managing a global pro bono component;
    • leveraging in-house resources by partnering with law firms and NGOs;
    • understanding multijurisdictional practice issues;
    • identifying and overcoming obstacles in jurisdictions with no history or tradition of pro bono;
    • teambuilding and engaging remote offices through collaborative global pro bono projects;
    • involving non-lawyer staff in global pro bono;
    • enhancing employee recruitment, retention and advancement through global pro bono;
    • boosting business and building reputation in emerging markets by advancing democracy and the rule of law through pro bono;
    • and, much more!

Whether you’re interested in engaging your offices abroad in pro bono, acquiring unique new legal skills and experiences, traveling to improve the lives of people in a place you’ve only read about, or bringing your legal talent to bear on the world’s most pressing problems without ever leaving your desk, our expert panelists agree that global pro bono opportunities exist for any lawyer, anywhere, with any skill set.

Please join us to discover the power of global pro bono in stimulating and engaging in-house legal professionals while enhancing your company’s existing CSR scheme!  CLE credit is available for this program in many states.  Registration is required to access this program, either live or on-demand as a recording.  To register or to submit questions in advance of the program, please contact CPBO Project Assistant Sarah Neuman.

**denotes a Signatory to the Corporate Pro Bono ChallengeSM

December 23, 2011

. . . And a Happy New Year!

The PBEye is looking ahead to the New Year and all the diets, resolutions, and beginnings that come along with it.  We’re taking the next week off to celebrate the holidays, but we’ll be back and ready to bring you pro bono as we see it on January 3.  In the meantime, we hope you and yours enjoy a happy and healthy holiday and a bright and exciting New Year!