The PBEye

Pro Bono As We See It
May 29, 2017

We Honor Those Who Serve

Today, we celebrate Memorial Day, a time to honor and pay tribute to the men and women who died while serving in the military. We are grateful to them and their families for their sacrifices and their service.

The holiday is a poignant reminder that providing pro bono assistance to eligible veterans is a unique opportunity for lawyers to exercise our patriotic duty and in some small way help repay those who served our country. Interested in getting involved? Check out VetLex, a new Veterans Legal Services Initiative, which will be operational soon.

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.

May 16, 2017

Pro Bono Work Removing Barriers to Employment

As May Day protests wind down, the issue of workers’ rights continues to linger in the public’s mind. Immigrant and LGBTQI+ worker rights were popular subjects this year, but an often overlooked issue is the immense hurdle a criminal record poses to individuals seeking employment.

Although campaigns like Ban the Box are working to limit the lasting impact of a criminal record, not all states have adopted this policy. This is problematic because helping individuals clear their criminal records can dramatically increase their chances of finding work. Unfortunately, many who qualify for expungement of their records or who may obtain clemency often do not have the financial means or knowledge required to begin the process. In response, Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatories across the country are providing pro bono legal assistance. For example:

  • Allstate Insurance Company** has partnered with Cabrini Green Legal Aid (CGLA) to help CGLA staff expunge criminal records and generate clemency petitions. Allstate sends volunteers once a month to staff CGLA’s expungement and record-sealing help desk. In addition, recognizing that clemency is sometimes an individual’s last chance to clear their record when they are ineligible for expungement, Allstate started a clemency initiative with CGLA. Through this initiative, Allstate volunteers help clients prepare clemency petitions for the governor and provide representation at formal hearings in front of the Prisoner Review Board. Allstate volunteers have spent more than 1,000 hours on such matters and been successful in assisting six clients obtain clemency.
  • Best Buy Co., Inc.** volunteers were the first to staff the Volunteer Lawyers Network’s (VLN) criminal expungement clinic in 2004. Since then, 3M Company** has joined the effort and volunteers from both companies staff the pro se expungement clinic twice a month. Volunteers create narratives explaining how their clients are negatively impacted by the public nature of their past records.
  • Discover Financial Services** volunteers attend a free legal services clinic in the Woodlawn neighborhood in the south side of Chicago and serve low-income residents of this neighborhood and the surrounding area in a multitude of ways, including expungement of criminal records, receiving public benefits, and child support. Since first volunteering, over 20 Discover lawyers and 10 non-lawyers have committed over 200 hours to the clinic.
  • Ford Motor Company** attorneys participate in the Legal Aid and Defender Association expungement clinic, helping clients prepare the documentation needed to begin the process of expungement and handling any pleadings and hearings involved in obtaining an expungement on behalf of their clients. To encourage their attorneys’ commitment to pro bono work, Ford has at least four Accelerated Action Days that provide their employees with opportunities to partake in volunteer work; often one of the four Accelerated Action Days focuses on supplying clients with the documentation necessary for expungement.
  • Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company ** has paired up with Project Homeless Connect’s (PHC) and staffs its legal and ID clinic to assist homeless individuals clear their criminal records, apply for a California ID, and much more.
  • United Continental Holdings, Inc.** also partners with CGLA and provides volunteers for CGLA’s expungement help desk located at the Daley Center in Chicago. In addition, United volunteers represent clients at live calling hearings for expungement and take the first 25 clients signed up at the help desk. Through its partnership with CGLA, United volunteers have achieved a 90 percent success rate in expunging records.

Due to the wonderful work of these companies, many low-income ex-offenders have been able to improve their chances of finding employment. A criminal record can prove a significant barrier for individuals seeking to establish stable and productive lives, which is why campaigns like Ban the Box and the pro bono work supporting expungement and clemency are so essential.

Hat tip to PBI intern Kelsey Muniz for his help with this post.

** denotes a Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory

May 15, 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 one, we answer questions from listeners about pro bono in pop culture, reading recommendations, and our “favorite” and most-requested publications. Tune in on Thursday to catch part two.

Subscribe to the Pro Bono Happy Hour in iTunes. Have you rated us on iTunes yet? Would you consider doing it now? We’d appreciate feedback and it would help make it easier for others to find the show and 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.

May 11, 2017

“The Time to Lead is Now”

“The future will belong to those who can embrace change.”
Hilarie Bass, President-Elect, American Bar Association; Greenberg Traurig*†, Co-President

We have previously reported that a video can be an innovative and engaging way to promote law firms pro bono program and demonstrate the firm’s dedication to pro bono. Similarly, a video is an eye-catching and informative way to promote legal services organizations and create awareness about needs and opportunities.

This year, our friends at The Florida Bar Foundation released an inspiring video, “The Time to Lead Is Now.” The fast-paced and ­­­catchy video is a call to action and highlights “trouble in paradise;” an access to justice crisis for many Floridians and how pro bono lawyers can be of help. Check out the video below and imagine if everyone had access to legal help and how we might achieve our goal:

Have you created a video to promote pro bono and access to justice recently? Leave a comment and share your experience, and be sure to link to the video!

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

May 8, 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 Kimberly McClain of Seyfarth Shaw*†. Kimberly talks to us about the firm’s pro bono program, applying project management principles to organizational pro bono clients, cultivating a social media presence, the firm’s “guideposts of Compassion, Action, and Impact,” and more.

Subscribe to the Pro Bono Happy Hour in iTunes. Have you rated us on iTunes yet? Would you consider doing it now? We’d appreciate feedback and it would help make it easier for others to find the show and 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.

Want to learn more about the world of in-house pro bono? Check out Corporate Pro Bono’s podcast, the CLO & Pro Bono Series, which features Chief Legal Officers discussing the importance of pro bono and access to justice.

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

May 4, 2017

Welcome, Greenberg Traurig, to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®

The Law Firm Pro Bono Project is pleased to announce a new signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® initiative. We are excited to welcome Greenberg Traurig*† whose attorneys and staff have shown a strong dedication to pro bono work by providing a range of meaningful legal services to those in need.

Since 1993, the Challenge, an initiative of PBI’s Law Firm Project, has served as a guidepost to assist major law firms in increasing their commitment to pro bono legal services. The Challenge principles are designed to offer institutional support and maximize the efficacy of law firm pro bono programs. The Challenge definition of pro bono has become an industry standard, utilized not only by major law firms but by the legal media in reporting the pro bono contributions of large law firms.

We encourage firms to use their status as signatories as a rallying cry and a point of pride and distinction. Publicize your participation and your pledge of pro bono service inside and outside the firm, to your clients, and to the public interest groups with whom you work. Making a public commitment to the Challenge heightens awareness of pro bono at the firm, increases attorney participation, engages firm leadership, and sets clear and shared goals for success. We also invite firms to renew their Challenge commitments at any time: whether you are undergoing a merger or other structural changes; whether you would like to increase your Challenge goal from 3 to 5 percent of billable hours; or whether you’d like to gain the momentum of publicly re-affirming your institutional commitment to pro bono.

For firms that have not yet joined because of a concern that they cannot meet the Challenge goals, we encourage you to enroll and use this proven tool to advance pro bono at your firm. There is no downside as we do not publish disaggregated statistics, nor do we in any way identify individual firms as having met or not met their Challenge goal. Rather, we work closely with Challenge Signatories to provide individual consultative services and support to help them improve their pro bono performance.

By joining the Challenge, your firm can institutionalize its firm-wide commitment to providing pro bono legal services to low-income and disadvantaged individuals and the organizations that serve them. To learn how your firm can become a leader in law firm pro bono, please contact us.

Coming Soon: We are busy preparing our report on the 2016 pro bono performance of Challenge Signatories, which will provide an evidenced-based picture of the law firm pro bono landscape. To view the 2015 Challenge Report, click here.

 

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

May 2, 2017

The Power of Stories and Pro Bono

Long time readers of The PBEye might remember a blog post from 2014: Television and Pro Bono: An Innovative Approach. The post detailed how Viacom Inc.**, one of the world’s premier entertainment brands, combined the medium of television with the unique skills of its legal department and production staff to engage in pro bono. To increase public awareness of gender-based violence and the implications of Kenya’s 2006 Sexual Offences Act, Viacom worked with the producers of its television program, Shuga: Love, Sex, Money, to incorporate important legal information into the storyline and leverage the program to educate the Kenyan community and viewers around the world.

The television show, which is shown on stations worldwide, is produced by MTV Networks Africa, The MTV Staying Alive Foundation, and several other partners, and is part of a large multimedia campaign with a goal of achieving a generation free of HIV. During the show’s pre-production phase, Viacom worked with Shearman & Sterling*† and Lawyers Without Borders to research and analyze Kenyan case law so that they could consult with the production team to structure a plotline regarding rape and draft materials for a public legal education campaign.

So where is Shuga now? So glad you asked! NPR recently released an article entitled Watch the MTV Soap Opera That Is Secretly Teaching Sex Ed detailing the project’s progress. Shuga launched its fifth season this spring, and TV channels and radio stations in 42 African countries have signed up to broadcast the latest season. According to MTV, the show has reached 719 million people through local entertainment networks and online sources.

Not only has the show grown in popularity, but there is evidence that the messaging is sinking in as well. The World Bank published a study last month that showed young viewers were twice as likely to get tested for HIV after watching the show for six months. The study also found that the number of chlamydia infections among women who watched was 58 percent lower than among those who did not watch.

“The results confirm the research on how young people learn,” reported NPR, “Stories are a safe, accessible way to get information out to adolescents who might otherwise tune out important messages about sexual health.”

Congratulations to Viacom, Shearman & Sterling, and Lawyers Without Borders!

denotes Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® signatory
† denotes a Member of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project
** denotes Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory