The PBEye

Pro Bono As We See It


June 17, 2015

Liberia, the Magna Carta, and the Rule of Law

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On June 15, thousands of people from around the world descended on a field in Runnymede in the United Kingdom to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta. Although the Magna Carta was not the first time a monarch agreed to respect the rights and liberties of others, it went on to become an icon for the revolutionary concepts of due process and the rule of law. As British Prime Minister David Cameron noted at the commemoration, “Think of South Africa – of that courtroom in Rivonia. As Nelson Mandela stood in the dock, looking at a lifetime in prison, it was Magna Carta that he cited.”

How can pro bono attorneys contribute to the vision being discussed and celebrated this week? One answer is rule of law themed pro bono projects, particularly in post-conflict countries. A noteworthy example is a recently completed project in Liberia, in which Thomson Reuters Corporation** teamed up with Linklaters*†‡ and the nonprofit organization Lawyers Without Borders (LWOB).

As the country struggled to recover from the political upheaval and civil wars that occurred under former president Charles Taylor, Liberia’s legal system was additionally challenged by a lack of access to case law precedent in a readily usable format. To remedy this, LWOB secured seed project underwriting from the World Bank, publishing support from Thomson Reuters, and volunteer lawyers from Linklaters to produce a digest of case summaries and key-word index of over 3,700 Liberian cases beginning in the 1860s. This five-year project involved a cross-disciplinary team of over 200 Linklaters lawyers, trainees, and summer associates, from offices in New York, London, Dubai, Hong Kong, Madrid, Milan, Moscow, and Paris. Thomson Reuters Corporation helped organize the case digest structure and printed hard copies of the digest and index; these have now been provided to every judge in Liberia. Making such information readily available in a meaningful way should help improve the efficacy and consistency of legal governance in Liberia, although electricity and internet connectivity issues have delayed the longer-term goal of making the digest and index available online.

The work of the Magna Carta is not yet done. But pro bono attorneys and other legal professionals are working to realize its vision in Liberia and elsewhere: a world governed by the rule of law. We will stay tuned!

* denotes a Signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®
**denotes a Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory
 denotes a Member of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project
New York office only participating in Challenge

September 17, 2013

Legal Departments, Law Firms, and Pro Bono


In January 2012, PBI President and CEO Esther Lardent wrote about pro bono partnerships between law firms and legal departments and the many benefits they can produce.  According to CPBO’s 2012 Benchmarking Survey, pro bono partnerships are on the rise: 86 percent of responding legal departments partnered with law firms on pro bono in 2012, up from 68 percent in 2010.  And nearly a quarter of responding legal departments partner with firms with whom they do not already have a business relationship.

This is not the only trend. CPBO’s 2012 Benchmarking Survey also found that a law firm’s pro bono efforts are increasingly important to legal departments in their selection and evaluation of their business relationship with firms.  More than a third of responding legal departments consider pro bono performance when evaluating outside counsel and 30 percent expressly inquire about pro bono in requests for proposals (RFPs), beauty contests, or retention processes.
partnership3You can read more about partnerships between legal departments and law firms when CPBO publically releases the 2012 Benchmarking Survey later this fall.  Until then, check out The PBEye for regular highlights as well as a variety of other pro bono partnership blogs. You may also review the 2010 Benchmarking Survey to learn more about trends in in-house pro bono.

For information, contact CPBO Director Eve Runyon.

September 20, 2012

Pressed for Time?

We spend a lot of time thinking, talking, and writing about why lawyers, law firms, and legal departments should do pro bono work.

In case you need yet another reason, check out this recent Harvard Business Review IdeaCast: Pressed for Time? Give Away Some of Yours.  This brief podcast is an interview with Cassie Mogilner, assistant professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, about her research and article “You’ll Feel Less Rushed If You Give Time Away.”

After conducting a series of experiments, Mogilner and her colleagues discovered that spending time helping others leaves people feeling as if they have more time, even though objectively they have less time.  The results may be counterintuitive but suggest that we are never too busy for pro bono.  It turns out that volunteers feel more capable, confident, and effective.  They develop a sense of accomplishment, which carries over into a feeling that they can accomplish even more in the future.  Self-efficacy and self-accomplishment enhance a person’s overall productivity.

Want to feel less pressed for time?  Try doing some pro bono work.

Do you feel more productive when you do pro bono?  Leave a comment and share your reactions to the podcast and Mogilner’s research.