The PBEye

Pro Bono As We See It
October 23, 2017

It’s Pro Bono Podcast Monday: A Conversation with Mary Gay Scanlon

Mary Gay Scanlon of Ballard Spahr*† joins PBI on the Law Firm Pro Bono Project’s podcast, the Pro Bono Happy Hour, to explore how she connects lawyers with pro bono opportunities tailored to their interests, motivates attorneys with a sticker incentive program and alerts, and how the firm’s upcoming merger with Lindquist & Vennum will reinforce both firms’ strong commitments to pro bono. Mary Gay also discusses the increase in immigration-related pro bono since January, pro bono efforts to promote access to nutritious food, broadcasting leadership’s pro bono work throughout the firm, and cultivating a mindfulness practice to reduce stress. Take 55 minutes to listen to our conversation with Mary Gay about the transformational power of pro bono.

Subscribe to the Pro Bono Happy Hour on Apple Podcasts and be sure to leave a review! We’d appreciate the feedback and it would help make it easier for other listeners to find the show. The podcast is also available on YouTube. Links to all of our episodes can be found here.

Listen 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.

* denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® signatory

† denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Project® member

October 19, 2017

#CelebrateProBono

We are #ProBonoProud and celebrated outstanding achievements in pro bono service and strengthening access to justice last month at our own Annual Dinner. Sensitively recognizing pro bono efforts has the power to sustain and transform pro bono programs. In addition to being meaningful for deserving individuals, and teams to be acknowledged, doing so can be educational, inspiring, and help recruit newcomers to the pro bono community.

The ABA’s 2017 National Celebration of Pro Bono is right around the corner. From October 22 to October 28, the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service will be encouraging greater participation in pro bono work by lawyers nationwide and to use the week as a tool to enhance access to justice for all. You can find National Pro Bono Celebration events across the country and near you by using the 2017 Events Map. Check out www.celebrateprobono.org for more information about the Celebration such as pro bono stories, resources, and more.

As they say: “Do Good. Do Justice. Do Pro Bono.”

October 16, 2017

It’s Pro Bono Podcast Monday: A Conversation with Eliza Vorenberg

Eliza Vorenberg from the Roger Williams University School of Law joins us on the Law Firm Pro Bono Project’s podcast, the Pro Bono Happy Hour, to explore her career, the Pro Bono Collaborative, which connects law firms, attorneys, and law students to community organizations that need pro bono legal services, and the access to justice culture in Rhode Island. We also discuss the wide variety of law student pro bono opportunities; the role of volunteer attorney mentors: expungement clinics; providing civil legal advice to individuals in a medium security prison and tax assistance clinics for low-income residents; and more. Take 50 minutes to listen to our conversation with Eliza about inculcating the spirit of pro bono service in every law student and motivating them to use their unique legal skills and training for the benefit of others.

Subscribe to the Pro Bono Happy Hour on Apple Podcasts and be sure to leave a review! We’d appreciate the feedback and it would help make it easier for other listeners to find the show. The podcast is also available on YouTube. Links to all of our episodes can be found here.

Listen 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.

October 12, 2017

Thanks to Our Members

Many thanks to the law firms that have joined the Law Firm Pro Bono Project for 2017-2018, and special welcome to the following new member firms: Butler Snow†, Lathrop Gage† and Loeb & Loeb*†. Member firms have publicly demonstrated their leadership and commitment to pro bono service.

It’s not too late to join! Submit your enrollment form or join online today and you’ll have access to a variety of high-quality resources to help you strengthen and grow your firm’s pro bono program. The Law Firm Project’s mission is to support and enhance the pro bono culture and performance of major law firms in the U.S. and around the world. We make available to our members an online Resource Clearinghouse, programming, confidential consultations, and more to ensure that their pro bono efforts remain vibrant, responsive, and effective. Be sure to take full advantage of your membership benefits. Please contact Law Firm Pro Bono Project Assistant Elysse DeRita, if you have any questions.

We appreciate our member firms’ dedication to pro bono and to our work, which is 100 percent supported by membership dues and law firm contributions. As the number of underserved persons locally and globally continues to climb, we must continue working together to do more pro bono, to do better pro bono, and to use our collective skills and resources to promote access to justice for all. We look forward to welcoming your law firm as a member soon.

* denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® signatory

† denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Project® member

October 9, 2017

It’s Pro Bono Podcast Monday: A Conversation with BJ Jensen

BJ Jensen of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison*† joins us on the Law Firm Pro Bono Project’s podcast, the Pro Bono Happy Hour, to discuss his role as the firm’s first Pro Bono Associate, the firm’s pro bono work for immigrants, transgender clients, and more. He describes how he infuses emails with the personal relationships he’s built throughout the firm to better recruit volunteers to staff pro bono matters. BJ also discusses how the firm leadership’s deep commitment to pro bono encouraged them to quickly mobilize in response to January’s travel ban and engage in meaningful “airport advocacy.” Take 45 minutes to listen to our conversation with BJ about his dream that everyone everywhere has access to a lawyer.

Subscribe to the Pro Bono Happy Hour on Apple Podcasts and be sure to leave a review! We’d appreciate the feedback and it would help us expand the conversation about pro bono and access to justice. The podcast is also available on YouTube. Links to all of our episodes can be found here.

Listen 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.

 

* denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® signatory

† denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Project® member

October 5, 2017

Ferguson, Fines, and Fees

Check out our most recent webinar produced in partnership with West LegalEdcenter, Ferguson, Fines, and Fees, to explore inspiring developments in the effort to decriminalize poverty and how pro bono lawyers can be of help.  Since the killing of Michael Brown in August 2014, St. Louis and its neighboring municipalities including Ferguson, Missouri, have been frequently cited for legal and moral failings in the region’s municipal justice system, which routinely sends thousands of people to jail because they cannot pay legal fines and fees. Poor and African-American people are disproportionately affected. The events in Ferguson, Missouri shined a spotlight on the use of local courts, jails, and police forces to generate millions of dollars in profits off the backs of our most impoverished citizens, including juveniles.  These practices devastate individuals and communities, while creating cultures of fear and resentment.

The costs associated with being a low-income offender can be overwhelming, as many states and localities charge fees and surcharges to fund the criminal justice system at every step of the process, from the courtroom to jail to probation. These may include fees for public defenders, jail fees, court administrative fees, prosecution fees, probation fees, parole fees, and more. Failure to pay these “poverty penalties” can lead to additional prison sentences or other consequences, such as the inability to obtain a driver’s license, that pose barriers to successfully re-entering society.

You’ll hear from:

  • Lisa Borden, Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz*
  • Katherine Hubbard, Civil Rights Corps
  • Sonia Murphy, White & Case*
  • Sara Totonchi, Southern Center for Human Rights

CLE credit is available in many jurisdictions. The program is available on demand for free for Law Firm Pro Bono Project Member Law Firms. Please contact Law Firm Pro Bono Project Assistant Elysse DeRita for assistance accessing the program.

*  denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® signatory

†  denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Project® member

October 2, 2017

It’s Pro Bono Podcast Monday: A Conversation with Kat McGee

Katharyn Christian McGee of Duane Morris*† joins us on the Law Firm Pro Bono Project’s podcast, the Pro Bono Happy Hour, to discuss the firm’s medical-legal partnerships, protecting survivors of domestic violence and sex trafficking, and one of her favorite parts of her job: getting to know every attorney at the firm. Kat advises getting associates “hooked” on pro bono early in their careers and finding niche pro bono areas that are underserved by other firms and that appeal to individual attorneys. Take 50 minutes to listen to our conversation with Kat about how pro bono “feeds the soul.”

Subscribe to the Pro Bono Happy Hour on Apple Podcasts and be sure to leave a review! We’d appreciate the feedback and it would help us expand the conversation about pro bono and 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.

* denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® signatory

denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Project® member

September 28, 2017

PBI’s 2017 Annual Dinner is Tonight

PBI is excited to host our Annual Dinner at Gotham Hall in New York City tonight! This year’s theme“Strengthening Access to Justice” features speakers sure to inspire all who attend. Attendees will hear remarks from special guest Charles Johnson, who was wrongfully convicted of a double murder in Chicago, and served 20 years of a life sentence. With pro bono assistance from 2017 John H. Pickering Award recipient Kirkland & Ellis*† and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, Johnson’s conviction was vacated in July 2016. Later that year, he was released from prison. Another highlight of tonight’s event will be a musical performance by another Kirkland pro bono client Diverse Concert Artists, a group “committed to diversity in classical and crossover music.”

We are also proud to present the 2017 CPBO Partner Award: Large Law to UnitedHealth Group Incorporated** in partnership with the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center and the 2017 CPBO Partner Award: Small Law to Arconic Inc. and Alcoa Corporation in partnership with Meyer, Unkovic & Scott for their commitment to pro bono.

In addition to our inspiring speakers, we thank our co-chairs, Laureen E. Seeger, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of American Express Company, Tony West, Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of PepsiCo, Inc.**, and David Zapolsky, Senior Vice President, General Counsel, and Secretary of Amazon.com, Inc. **

Be sure to follow the festivities tonight by checking out posts tagged with #PBIDinner2017 and #ProBonoProud and by following us @ProBonoInst on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube where we will be posting videos of tonight’s events.

*  denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® signatory

†  denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Project® member

** denotes a Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory

 

 

September 26, 2017

Two Down, One to Go for Verizon

On September 8, Verizon Communications Inc.** co-hosted the second of three clinics scheduled for 2017 with DLA Piper* and CPBO at its offices in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. The clinic utilized CPBO’s Clinic in a Box® Program – Select Topic and offered volunteers and nonprofits a deep dive on performance improvement plans and separation agreements.

Volunteer attorneys from Verizon were joined by colleagues from other legal departments, including ADP, LLC, Berkeley College, Datapipe Managed IT Services, and Sanofi US Services Inc.**. The volunteers arrived bright and early for a training on performance improvement plans and separation agreements led by an attorney from DLA Piper. Following the training, volunteers split into teams and met with representatives from ten nonprofit organizations to draft or revise the organization’s performance improvement plans and a form separation agreement. The nonprofit organizations attending the clinic offer a wide range of services, including creating employment opportunities for veterans, empowering young people to strengthen their social-emotional skills, and ending domestic and sexual violence.

Clients and volunteers alike found the clinic to be a “very rewarding” experience. One client shared that the clinic provided “a good plan for moving forward”. Both the clients and volunteers expressed excitement about the subject of the clinic, with one volunteer stating, “I liked the limited focus and targeted materials.”

The PBEye thanks all of the co-hosts and volunteers for making this clinic a great success, and the nonprofits for the essential work they do to serve their communities. ACC chapters and legal departments interested in hosting a similar clinic can learn more at Clinic in a Box® program and read about previous clinics here. To discuss in-house pro bono, please contact CPBO.

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

 

 

September 21, 2017

Pro Bono Innovation and Evaluation

We are constantly amazed and inspired by the brilliant pro bono work being done every day to improve and save lives. Despite the passion and generosity of pro bono lawyers, we continue to confront a persistent access to justice crisis. In response, the legal community has been experimenting with innovative approaches to close the justice gap. A key component of innovation, however, must be evaluation.

Our friend Jonathan Asher of Colorado Legal Services once said that the problem with legal assistance is that it has “too many uncritical lovers and too many unloving critics.” Now more than ever, pro bono needs critical lovers: people who are sufficiently committed to pro bono and access to justice to ask hard questions about the efficacy of our efforts. We must be prepared to take an open and honest look at what impact our pro bono efforts are having with rigorous and unbiased assessment and a profound willingness to change anything that isn’t working well.

Limited-scope programs are innovations that have been accompanied by evaluations, which provide insight on the many facets of pro bono programs and the legal system. Evaluative studies have involved feedback from clients, participating attorneys, program coordinators, and judges. They have used a variety of methodologies, including paper surveys, phone calls, in-person interviews, focus groups, and case file reviews. While studies have evaluated various services and utilized different methodologies, they are unanimous on the value of feedback and evaluation.

One example of an innovative limited-scope initiative that has incorporated meaningful evaluation is New York City’s Volunteer Lawyer for the Day program (VLFD). Pro bono lawyers provide a single day of assistance to litigants, helping them navigate court appearances and settlement conferences. The program began with a pilot of fifty cases in a single housing court, and incorporated extensive feedback from clients, participating attorneys, and the presiding judge. This feedback revealed some of the common stumbling blocks unrepresented litigants face in housing court. For example, most of the VLFD clients did not know that disrepair was a defense in eviction hearings, nor were they aware that the court could order a landlord to make necessary repairs. Once the pro bono lawyers presented these options, many tenants avoided eviction and had their homes repaired to a habitable standard. After such a successful pilot, the program was expanded and made permanent. Today, VLFD attorneys assist litigants in housing and consumer debt cases throughout the City.

Another study evaluated the effectiveness of legal advice hotlines. Hotlines provide callers with legal advice and sometimes brief services. Clients of several different hotlines were surveyed by phone, and had their case files reviewed by lawyers to determine whether they achieved a “favorable” outcome. The results were positive: when clients understood and acted upon the hotlines’ advice, they almost always prevailed. A caller’s comprehension and subsequent actions are critical predicates for positive results. The study found that hotlines could enhance client understanding, which is often lacking, by engaging in a single follow-up communication – either placing a second phone call or mailing an information sheet. By adopting this strategy, hotlines could significantly improve their efficacy without making large investments of time or resources.

As pro bono leaders innovate to close the justice gap, evaluation of efforts is crucial. Every pro bono program could and should benefit from continuous improvement, retooling, and rethinking. Assessments spur further innovation by revealing cost-effective strategies and other ideas to improve the delivery of legal services. Also, positive feedback demonstrates and confirms the value of pro bono efforts and builds support among stakeholders and decision-makers. We cannot afford to be complacent or rest on our laurels. As pro bono fans, we must also critically examine our initiatives. The clients who desperately need our help deserve no less.

Hat tip to PBI intern Madeline B. Jenks for her help with this post.