PBI welcomed friends and supporters in Washington, DC on Wednesday, January 25, for the second program in the Esther F. Lardent Leadership in Pro Bono Series, launched in 2016. Hosted by Microsoft, dozens of pro bono advocates gathered for a candid discussion featuring Tim Mayopoulos, President and CEO of Fannie Mae, and long-time champion of pro bono. Mayopoulos was joined by Stasia Kelly, Co-Managing Partner (Americas), DLA Piper, and Marc Fleischaker, Counsel and Chair Emeritus, Arent Fox, who moderated the discussion with robust audience participation.
Mayopoulos opened by sharing the profound ripple effect a simple act – signing the Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® statement (while General Counsel at Bank of America) – had on Bank of America’s legal department, their law firm counterparts, and even other companies. He also talked about the lessons he learned from that simple act, including the importance of prioritizing values, like service to community, and how those values shaped his career and his perspectives on leadership. Mayopoulos noted that corporate leaders can play a unique role on important social justice issues by engaging those around them, including lawmakers and other decision makers.
Noting the highly-charged political climate, Fleischaker and Kelly discussed big law’s efforts around current access to justice issues. Kelly stated that there is a lot of energy which mobilizes people, but that a values alignment with stakeholders remains important. Audience members advised following the lead of legal services providers and cautioned taking reflexive action without adequate information. The panelists agreed that while some individual issues may be partisan, other areas like ensuring access to courts and protecting rule of law are not only broadly supported, but imperative to a well-functioning society.
On the topic of building coalitions, the panelists agreed that, working in concert, the legal community can influence important access to justice issues. PBI’s President and CEO Eve Runyon and Association of Corporate Counsel’s CEO Veta Richardson described a successful effort in partnership with local ACC chapters, bar associations, and other stakeholders to expand the ability of in-house counsel to engage in pro bono across jurisdictions. ACC and PBI drafted letters of support which hundreds of general counsels signed resulting in rules changes in more than 13 jurisdictions. A similar effort may be recommended if the new administration proposes shifts in important initiatives and resources.
PBI thanks event sponsors: Fannie Mae, Arent Fox, and Tom Gottschalk of Kirkland & Ellis for their support.