The PBEye

Pro Bono As We See It


October 15, 2013

Sleep Insurance for In-House Pro Bono

Claims against in-house counsel and their employers arising from pro bono legal services are nearly nonexistent. Nonetheless, no one wants to be the exception to the rule. While, legal departments, unlike law firms, do not always carry such insurance, CPBO’s 2012 Benchmarking Report demonstrates that there are a number of options available to legal departments.

The following graphs from the report show the percentage of respondent legal departments that select each of the options:


In-house counsel remain keenly interested in their options for professional liability coverage (sometimes referred to as a type of “sleep insurance” due to the infrequency of claims). For more information about the benefits and drawbacks of the various options available to in-house counsel check-out CPBO’s paper Professional Liability Insurance for In-House Pro Bono or listen to the webinar – “In-house Pro Bono: Professional Liability Insurance,” in which the following panelists explore in-depth the insurance options:

    • Susan Friedman – Senior Vice President, Marsh USA Inc.**
    • Kevin Horsted – Vice President, NLADA Insurance Program
    • Mike Sposato – Deputy General Counsel, Caterpillar Inc.**
    • Sara Woods – Executive Director, Philadelphia VIP
    • Andrea Wysocki – Assistant Vice President and Employed Lawyers Professional Liability Product Manager, Chubb Specialty Insurance

In-house participants interested in registering to listen to the recording of the webinar should contact CPBO Project Assistant Eric Florenz.

Of course, CPBO remains available to talk with you about your pro bono program, whether it is with regard to insurance or any other issue.  To reach CPBO, please contact CPBO Director Eve Runyon.

**denotes a Signatory to the Corporate Pro Bono ChallengeSM

April 18, 2013

More than Just Flowers: A Virtuous Circle

MC900355865As we prepare to celebrate Administrative Professionals Day next week (also known as Secretaries Day or Support Staff Week), and the yearly ritual of monitoring who sends and receives the office’s most beautiful floral arrangement, let’s take a moment to pause and appreciate the valuable contributions of all of our colleagues and co-workers.  As our friend Nic Patrick wrote recently on DLA Piper’s*† Pro Bono Blog:

In a professional services firm our people are everything. We must attract and retain the very best employees.  In order to achieve this we must ensure we give our staff learning and development opportunities, we must ensure their work is interesting and challenging and provides an opportunity for people to extend themselves.  Pro bono plays an important role, since many pro bono matters provide staff with these kinds of opportunities.  The availability of pro bono opportunities is a key benefit that any firm can provide to its people.  We know that our people enjoy the pro bono work that they do, and we know that happy employees are more productive.  It’s a virtuous circle.

Law firms and legal departments are made up of a lot of people – most of whom are not lawyers.  Involving paralegals; administrative assistants; librarians; compliance, risk, and project management specialists; marketing and communications staff; policy, science, human resources, and information technology experts; and other non-lawyer staff in your pro bono efforts is one way to effectively increase your pro bono practice and serve more clients.  In order for non-lawyers to successfully contribute to your pro bono efforts: (1) the culture of your firm or organization must support non-lawyer participation; (2) non-lawyers must be informed and made aware of relevant pro bono opportunities; (3) you should cater to non-lawyer abilities and interests; and (4) non-lawyers must be adequately trained and supervised, so that they can have a meaningful experience.  As our friend Lisa Borden observed on Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC’s One Good Turn blog, “[g]etting people engaged in pro bono helps create a sense of community in a law firm – it only makes sense to find ways to engage staff as well as lawyers in that effort.”

Don’t just take our word for it.  Check out this inspiring video clip in which our friend Cheryl Naja describes a pro bono project for eligible cancer patients that was the brainchild of non-lawyers at Alston & Bird LLP*†, who are also heavily involved, along with firm lawyers, in its ongoing implementation:

How are you engaging your non-lawyer staff and leveraging their skills in support of pro bono projects?  Are you incorporating a pro bono element into the celebration of your administrative professionals next week?  Leave a comment and share your creative ideas below.  To learn more about involving non-lawyers in pro bono, check out the Law Firm Pro Bono Project’s publication “Broadening the Bench: Involving Non-Lawyer Staff in Law Firm Pro Bono,” which is available in our Resource Clearinghouse.

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

April 11, 2013

Pro Bono and a Food Desert Near You

clip_image001The PBEye closely follows pro bono efforts designed to increase access to nutritious and affordable food.  As a society, we continue to pay greater attention to the food we eat and the impact it has on our health and well-being.  Unhealthy eating habits and limited access to fresh food, however, are systemic issues for many Americans.  This is particularly problematic because the number of poor and hungry residents in the U.S. climbed recently (47.3 million, nearly one in seven Americans, participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly referred to as food stamps).  Pro bono work in this area has the potential to make a significant impact on our communities.

Want to know where you can’t buy fresh, healthy food?  The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a new map for you!  The Food Access Research Atlas helps you see exactly where people have challenges finding fresh fruits and veggies to purchase.  With a few clicks and you can learn exactly where people are unable to walk to a grocery store.  The atlas is a terrific tool for policymakers, nonprofit groups, and pro bono lawyers concerned about food access issues.  In addition to providing relief to food deserts by bringing farmers markets and grocery stores into communities, efforts to help people eat better also include working on lowering the costs of nutritious food and education.

Another useful tool, in addition to USDA’s new online atlas, is the Law Firm Pro Bono Project’s publication Pro Bono Food for Thought: Improving Access to Nutrition.  Pro bono work to support food access and security has the potential to transform a community, for example by turning an abandoned lot into a productive urban farm or cutting through bureaucratic barriers obstructing food stamp distribution or access to school meal programs.  Because this is an emerging area that many people – not just foodies – feel especially passionate about, you may be able to excite and engage a certain segment of your attorneys and professional staff, including some who may not have previously been the most active pro bono volunteers.

You may access the publication, which is free to Member Firms and available to others for purchase, by visiting our Resource Clearinghouse.  Are you engaged in an innovative pro bono project that promotes access to healthy food in low-income communities?  Leave us a comment and let us know!

October 18, 2012

Promoting a Barrier-Free and Inclusive World

Disability rights issues are fertile ground for lawyers, law firms, and legal departments looking to develop or expand their pro bono practice.  The range of opportunities is broad and deep, with options for both small and large-scale projects and those that would appeal to litigators and non-litigators alike.  Through a variety of pro bono engagements and partnerships with advocacy organizations, pro bono lawyers can have significant and meaningful impact while being at the forefront of cutting-edge legal efforts.  More than 20 years after the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law, there is still more work to be done to fight discrimination and promote equal access, independence, opportunity, and freedom from abuse and neglect.

An impressive majority of Law Firm Pro Bono Project Member Firms and Challenge® Signatories are devoting pro bono efforts to individuals with disabilities and groups that serve them.  A few inspiring examples include:

  • Arnold & Porter LLP*† represented inmates at the Louisiana State Penitentiary (Angola) and the Hunt Correctional Center who suffered from mental illnesses of varying types and degrees. The lawsuit alleged that the state failed to meet the minimum constitutional and legal standards in the delivery of mental health services and the treatment of mentally ill inmates. A settlement agreement was eventually reached, which required the state to revise more than 50 basic mental health policies, to implement a comprehensive set of mental health reform policies, and to allow a nationally recognized health expert to monitor and report on state compliance with these reform policies in the two institutions.
  • Working with the Learning Rights Law Center, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP*† achieved a precedent-setting victory for a high school student living with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, who was denied full access to her school’s campus due to her disability. The student could not ascend or descend stairs due to a genetic progressive neurological disorder and was not permitted to use her high school’s elevator without a chaperone. Her requests for an elevator key were repeatedly denied by school officials. With the help of Manatt, the student filed suit against the local school district for violations under the ADA, asking the Court to enjoin the school to provide her with an elevator key. Ultimately, the Court ruled in favor of the student, determining that she was excluded from school activities on the basis of her disability.
  • Morrison & Foerster LLP*† prevailed on behalf of a child with autism against the Anchorage, Alaska, school district for failing to provide him an appropriate education.  Follow this success, the school district agreed to fully fund the child’s education throughout his school years and to repay his parents for the costs incurred because the district did not follow the law.
  • A team from DLA Piper LLP*† provided support to a coalition of leading disability, human rights, and community organizations to prepare a landmark report on the lived experience of people with disabilities in Australia.  The Disability Rights Now report follows three years of community consultation and research and makes 130 recommendations to the United Nations Disability Committee.  DLA Piper facilitated consultations in each State and Territory in Australia and assisted in drafting the report.  The United Nations Disability Committee will undertake its review of Australia in Geneva in 2013.

Be sure to check out the Law Firm Project’s new publication Spotlight on Pro Bono and Disability Rights which is available (free for Law Firm Project Members and to all others to purchase) from our Resource Clearinghouse.  This report showcases many of these innovative and impactful pro bono initiatives.

The PBEye hopes that you will be inspired and get involved.  There is an opportunity to suit the interests and talents of many pro bono lawyers!

Is your firm engaged in an innovative pro bono project that promotes inclusion and disability rights?  Leave us a comment and tell us about it!

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

June 12, 2012

In-House Pro Bono in England & Wales

Many legal departments are interested in global pro bono, but fewer have global programs due to real and perceived challenges.  The PBEye knows that one of the biggest challenges is a lack of information about opportunities and regulations in different countries.   To help in-house attorneys leap this hurdle,  DLA Piper LLP* recently published the England and Wales In-House Counsel Pro Bono Guide, which provides in-house lawyers with tools and information to establish or expand a pro bono program in those jurisdictions.

The guide offers insight into dealing with common obstacles such as indemnity insurance, cost agreements, and identifying the most appropriate projects.  To help legal departments avoid these complications, DLA Piper lists partnering opportunities through which legal departments can join established pro bono projects.  For departments interested in starting a program, the guide includes a sample pro bono policy that departments can modify to reflect their needs and goals.

We are excited to see this new global pro bono resource for legal departments.  And, interested departments (and law firms) can learn more about pro bono in 42 jurisdictions by reviewing “A Survey of Pro Bono Practices and Opportunities in Selected Jurisdictions,” which was prepared by Latham & Watkins LLP* for PBI.   As always, PBI’s Global Pro Bono Project is another resource that offers consultative services, research, publications and more.

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

October 12, 2011

VIDEO: Broadening the Bench: Involving Non-Attorneys

Law firms and legal departments are made up of a lot of people – many of whom may not be lawyers.  Involving paralegals; librarians; compliance specialists; marketing staff; policy, science, human resources, and information technology experts; and other non-lawyer staff in your pro bono efforts is one way to effectively increase your pro bono practice and serve more clients.  In order for non-lawyers to successfully contribute to your pro bono efforts: (1) the culture of your firm or organization must support non-lawyer participation; (2) non-lawyers must be informed and made aware of relevant pro bono opportunities; (3) you should cater to non-lawyer abilities and interests; and (4) non-lawyers must be adequately trained and supervised, so that they can have a meaningful experience.

Last year, at our Annual Conference, our friend Cheryl Naja, pro bono-community service manager at Alston & Bird LLP*†, inspired attendees with one visionary and creative way that the firm has been able to involve non-lawyers.  Naja saw a unique opportunity to assist the Georgia Senior Legal Hotline, which had to cut staff following budget cuts in 2009.  Faced with splitting the hotline’s staff attorney time between representing clients and monitoring hotline calls, Alston & Bird put its receptionists to work doing intake for the hotline.  The program allows the firm’s non-lawyer staff to make a meaningful contribution while giving legal services attorneys more time to help their clients.  Naja explains the program in more detail in the video below.

We are delighted to report that last month, Alston & Bird was honored with a Corporate Volunteer Council of Atlanta 2011 IMPACT Award in recognition of this program and the contributions it makes to the Atlanta Legal Aid Society and the Georgia Legal Services Program.  This innovative model could – and should – be replicated by firms around the country.

How are you engaging your non-lawyer staff and leveraging their skills in support of pro bono projects?  Leave a comment and share your creative ideas.  To learn more about involving non-lawyers in pro bono, email Law Firm Pro Bono Project Assistant Mary Baroch to request a copy of the Project’s publication “Broadening the Bench: Involving Non-Lawyer Staff in Law Firm Pro Bono.”

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

denotes a Member of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project

July 14, 2011

More Summer Reading: Harnessing the Power of Feedback Loops

We’ve come across an interesting new article that has intriguing implications for law firm pro bono.  Harnessing the Power of Feedback Loops in the July issue of Wired explores how we can create subtle reminders that encourage us to do better.  The idea of a feedback loop is simple: give people information about their actions in real time, then give them a chance to change those actions, encouraging them to improve their behaviors.

A feedback loop involves four stages:

1.  Behavior must be measured, captured, and stored.  As they say, you can’t change what you don’t measure.  This is the “evidence” stage. 
2.  The information is related – not in raw-data form – but in a context that makes it meaningful.  This is the “relevance” stage. 
3.  The information must illuminate one or more paths ahead – there must be a link to some larger goal or purpose.  This is the “consequence” stage. 
4.  There must be a moment when behavior is recalibrated and a choice is made.  This is the “action” stage.

“Your Speed” signs (aha, the picture makes sense now!) leverage a feedback loop.  They are an effective tool for changing behavior by providing people with real-time information and giving them an opportunity to change.

Action.  Information.  Reaction. This reminds us of the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®.   Signatory Firms perform and record their pro bono work over the course of a year.  They report their results to the Law Firm Pro Bono Project, so we can analyze the data and place it in context.  Our annual Challenge Report provides meaningful information along with a sense of what firms can do with that information to create new pro bono opportunities and improve their performance over the following year.

Feedback loops, like the Challenge, work because they are how we learn.  Trial by error?  A course correction?  In order to succeed we need to have some sense of where we stand and some way to evaluate our progress.

For more information about becoming a Signatory to the Challenge, please contact us at

Do you have any other pro bono-related summer reading recommendations?  We’d love to hear from you.

July 7, 2011

15 Ways to Boost Your Firm’s Pro Bono Hours

Based on the results of the recently released PBI Challenge Report, it may be helpful to carefully assess your firm’s pro bono program to indentify what’s working and what’s not.  For those firms with pro bono time lagging behind past years or falling short of your firm’s goals, or those looking to build on previous success and improve their firm’s pro bono performance, here are some tips that might help you reinvigorate your pro bono program, increase pro bono hours, and improve program visibility:

1. Maximize your pro bono timekeeping;

2. Credit pro bono time – and show you mean it;

3. Report results to the firm;

4. Reassess your pro bono program;

5. Cater to your attorneys’ pro bono interests;

6. Create a firm-wide pro bono project;

7. Accept a major litigation matter;

8. Schedule your attorneys’ pro bono commitment;

9. Establish a firm-sponsored rotation/externship program;

10. Hire dedicated pro bono staff;

11. Involve summer associates;

12. Involve first-year associates and experienced/transitioning attorneys;

13. Develop a mentoring system and a team;

14. Establish a pro bono award; and

15. Contact the Law Firm Pro Bono Project for confidential consulting – and sign on to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®

Read more about each of these tips in the PBI publication: “15 Ways to Boost Your Firm’s Pro Bono Hours.”  Law Firm Pro Bono Project Members can receive this publication free of charge.  Contact Mary Baroch, Law Firm Pro Bono Project assistant, to request a copy.

What methods to increase pro bono hours have worked successfully at your firm?  Leave us a comment below.

June 22, 2011

Coming Soon: Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® Report

The Pro Bono Institute will be releasing its report on the 2010 pro bono performance of Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® Signatory Firms next week. With 138 of the nation’s largest law firms reporting their pro bono statistics for last year to the Pro Bono Institute, we are able to provide an accurate picture of the law firm pro bono landscape. This year’s numbers offer an interesting perspective on how large firms are institutionalizing pro bono in firm culture.

Each year PBI’s report examines the hours of pro bono performed by attorneys in large law firms, the level of participation by partners and associates, service to persons of limited means and organizations serving those of limited means, and charitable giving to legal services organizations, among other topics. The PBEye is anxious to see how firms have fared in light of the global economic crisis, reduced headcounts, associate anxiety, and an uneven recovery admid other concerns that have faced firms since 2008. Historically, we know that pro bono has been impacted in the years following a downturn in the economy, but that it remains a critical part of firm culture.

We got a glimpse in to what may be included in the 2010 report when the Law Firm Pro Bono Project conducted a mid-year survey of firms’ 2010 numbers. At that time, we learned that some firms were experiencing a dip in pro bono participation, while others remained steady or increased. In 2009, 134 of the nation’s law firms performed 4,867,820 hours of pro bono work, which amounted to an increase of nearly 24,000 hours from 2008. That year, firms donated 2,962,028 hours of pro bono service to individuals of limited means or organizations serving them, more than 60 percent of total pro bono hours, as compared to 3,761,722 hours (77 percent of total pro bono hours) in 2008. This decline in providing service to individuals of limited means was likely a result of the deep cuts at public interest organizations and the resulting impact on those organizations’ abilities to screen clients and effectively utilize pro bono resources. Both 2008 and 2009 were record-breaking years for pro bono service, demonstrating that even when times are tough, attorneys are committed to pitching in for the greater good.

Stay tuned for the complete 2010 results coming soon in the full report, next week.  To view the 2009 Challenge Report, click here.

How has your firm fared? Share your thoughts on pro bono hours and participation in the comments below.

April 28, 2011

Four Firms Collaborate with Appleseed on New Report

This week our friends at Appleseed released the report: Children at the Border:  the Screening, Protection, and Repatriation of Unaccompanied Mexican Minors, which exposes noncompliance with the 2008 federal Trafficking Victim Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA).  TVPRA, which was intended to prevent human trafficking and exploitation, has not been fully implemented or followed at the U.S.-Mexico border, where Mexican children unaccompanied by an adult are often shuttled back across the border without protection or proper care.  As a result, thousands of children are needlessly exposed to human trafficking by drug cartels and criminal gangs, or repatriated to potentially abusive and dangerous situations without having a reasonable chance to assert their rights to protection.

Appleseed’s investigation reveals that unaccompanied minors are routinely misinformed about their rights to make an asylum claim and appear before a judge.  In addition, the TVPRA screenings are not being conducted in a manner or in environments that would indicate whether the minor is a potential victim of trafficking or abuse.  The manner of interviewing minors doesn’t allow them to make a truly “voluntary” choice about whether to return to Mexico.

The report makes recommendations to significantly reduce the risks that these children face. To read these recommendations, download a full copy of the report here.

A team of 32 pro bono lawyers from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP*, DLA Piper LLP*, Mayer Brown LLP*, and the Mexican firm Jáuregui, Navarrete y Nader S.C. spent two years investigating these border injustices, making 14 site visits in the U.S. and Mexico.

Has your firm collaborated on pro bono matters? Leave a comment and let us know.

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