The PBEye

Pro Bono As We See It
June 1, 2017

Pro Bono for Mother Nature

As the days grow longer and the sun shines brighter, we are all eager to head outside and enjoy the summer season. Spending time outdoors reminds us how valuable and important it is to preserve our natural environment.  As we have previously reported, there are many opportunities that bypass both traditional and business conflicts for pro bono lawyers to use their legal skills to further environmental protections.

A number of Law Firm Pro Bono Project member firms and Challenge® signatories are devoting significant time and resources to eco pro bono work.  Notable examples include:

  • Baker McKenzie* represented the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in a lawsuit against the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) for polluting the Chicago River System. Three of MWRD’s sewage treatment plants were dumping excess phosphorous into the river system, causing an explosion of algae blooms. Algae blooms are a threat to nearby organisms because they deprive the water of oxygen, leading the organisms to die. Baker McKenzie helped the NRDC reach a settlement with the MWRD that requires the MWRD to upgrade their pollution controls by 2030, and mandates the MWRD join a committee dedicated to creating plans to eliminate algal issues in the most problematic areas.
  • Covington & Burling* advised SolarAid, and its social enterprise arm SunnyMoney, in their work to alleviate poverty in Africa by building a sustainable market for solar lights, which will create new jobs and inject money into the local economy. Their mission is to eradicate the use of unhealthy and unsafe kerosene lamps by 2020.
  • DLA Piper* worked with the United for Wildlife Transport Industry Taskforce to crack down on illegal wildlife trafficking routes.
  • Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson* successfully represented Conservation International in its effort to create a marine sanctuary off the coast of Belize. The sanctuary will be used to protect the world’s only known gathering site for the largest fish, the whale shark.
  • Hogan Lovells* represented The Barefoot College, which connects rural communities to solar, water, education, professionals, and advocacy efforts to help communities and individuals take control of their lives, wellbeing, and communities. One effort helped train 400 women in 35 different countries to become solar engineers. These women, often called “solar mamas,” will help bring light to over 20,000 homes.
  • White & Case* provided significant legal research to WaterLex, which works to secure the human rights to water and sanitation through law and policy reform. Approximately 50 lawyers across ten offices researched existing water legislation in five countries as part of a “Country Water Governance Mapping” effort.

In addition, the firm is addressing the collateral consequences of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, by joining forces with the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and the Education Law Center to file a class-action lawsuit on behalf of children in Flint, who were exposed to lead-contaminated water.  Lead exposure impairs cognition and is associated with an array of learning and behavioral challenges. These children, however, have been denied the special education services that are their right under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and Michigan state law.

Through their time and effort, pro bono lawyers can make a significant and meaningful impact, while fulfilling our responsibility to be good stewards of the planet. To learn more about pro bono opportunities and strategic partnerships with public interest and advocacy organizations, check out the Law Firm Pro Bono Project’s publication Saving the Planet, One Pro Bono Matter at a Time, which is available in our Resource Clearinghouse.

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

Hat tip to PBI interns Kelsey Muniz and Patrick MacDonald for their help with this post.

May 30, 2017

Leidos Takes the Pro Bono Plunge

In April, Leidos, Inc.** General Counsel Vince Maffeo, announced the launch of the legal department’s pro bono program to serve veterans, community nonprofits, and individuals in need.

Joining 167 other legal departments across the country, Maffeo signed the CPBO Challenge® statement, pledging to encourage and promote pro bono service in the Leidos legal department with an aspirational goal of 50 percent participation.

To kick off its pro bono initiative, the legal department hosted a department-wide legal ethics program presented by PBI President and CEO Eve Runyon and CPBO Director Tammy Sun on May 16 at Leidos’ offices in Reston, Virginia.

The program opened with a welcome by Leidos attorney Kristin Grimes, a member of the pro bono committee, who thanked Maffeo for his leadership and support of pro bono engagement. Runyon began by discussing the lawyer’s obligation to engage in pro bono service under the relevant rules as well as what kinds of service count as pro bono. Sun provided an overview of the various state rules that define the nature and scope of in-house counsel practice and how they impact pro bono practice for in-house counsel. The speakers also delved into common issues legal departments confront when engaging in pro bono matters, including insurance, the nature of the attorney-client relationship, potential conflicts of interest, and involving non-lawyer legal staff in pro bono.

The event gave members of the legal department an opportunity to ask questions, discuss the unique issues surrounding in-house counsel providing pro bono services, and consider how to address those issues in Leidos’ legal department.

In addition, the legal department pledged $10,000 toward pro bono efforts, donating $5,000 to the American Bar Association Veterans Claims Network. Another portion of the pledged funds will sponsor a CPBO Clinic in a Box® program where volunteers from the Leidos legal team will provide free legal advice to nonprofit clients.

To sponsor a pro bono ethics program or CPBO Clinic in a Box® program at your legal department or ACC chapter, please contact CPBO Director Tammy Sun.

** denotes a Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory

 

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