The PBEye

Pro Bono As We See It


March 13, 2012

CPBO Spotlight On: Aetna Inc.

Aetna, the recipient of the 2009 CPBO Pro Bono Partner Award, has a longstanding tradition of pro bono service.  Among the first to do so, the legal department adopted a formal pro bono program in 1981.  The program’s longevity is due in large part to consistent support from general counsel over the years, including current Senior Vice President and General Counsel Bill Casazza.

Connecticut Lawyers’ Legal Aid to the Elderly
Since the program’s inception, Aetna’s lawyers have handled hundreds of cases in the greater Hartford, Conn., area dealing with elder law issues such as estate planning, Medicaid, Medicare, landlord-tenant disputes and Social Security benefits under its Connecticut Lawyers’ Legal Aid to the Elderly (CLLAE) program.  Under the CLLAE program, Hartford legal assistants directly take incoming calls year round from local senior citizens. 

Lawyers for Children America
In 1994, Aetna’s legal department helped found Lawyers for Children America (LFCA), a nonprofit organization that recruits volunteer lawyers to represent abused and neglected children.  Lawyers for Children America became an independent nonprofit in 1995, though Aetna continues to support the organization by providing office space and covering all operating expenses.  Originally a Hartford-based project, LFCA now has three offices in Connecticut and a program in Miami.

Reparations for Holocaust Survivors
Starting in California, Bet Tzedek, a legal services organization, created a clinic model to provide support to Holocaust survivors, and in partnership with attorneys at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP*, created training materials and workshops in order to replicate the model throughout the U.S.  As the program was rolled out across the country, Aetna jumped at the opportunity to organize and lead the reparations clinics in Connecticut.  Aetna also recruits additional volunteers by reaching out to its outside law firms.   

In 2011, Aetna renewed its commitment to Bet Tzedek by reviewing previously denied applications for survivors whose cases have been re-opened and will potentially receive significant back payments.  Fourteen lawyers and 11 legal assistants volunteered for this program in 2011. 

National Veterans Legal Services Program
Aetna’s legal department has participated in the Lawyers Serving Warriors program, sponsored by the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) to provide free legal representation in disability, discharge and veterans benefits cases to service members and veterans who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom. Volunteers received training on laws governing the military and veterans’ benefits programs and work with an NVLSP mentor who is experienced in military and veterans law.  In 2010, 25 Aetna lawyers and staff participated in this program. 

Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania
Aetna’s Blue Bell, Pa., office partners each year with Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania to perform in-person client intake sessions several afternoons per month, freeing up the Legal Aid attorneys to focus on their current client matters.  In 2011, seven lawyers and staff participated in this program.

Individual Service
Aetna routinely conducts department-wide surveys of skills and interests to pair attorneys and legal assistants with individual projects in the geographic areas and subject matters that appeal to them most.  For example, Aetna worked with pro bono organizations in Connecticut to match attorneys with expertise in health insurance law to assist local nonprofit health clinics, hospitals, and health foundations.  Members of Aetna’s legal department also participated in a one-day birth certificate clinic organized by a local corporation and law firm.  More than 30 lawyers and legal assistants participated in individualized pro bono service.

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

February 15, 2012

CPBO Spotlight On: The Williams Companies

The Williams Companies*, a nationwide energy company based in Tulsa, Okla., has a strong pro bono program.  The program’s success is due in large part to the support and encouragement of its past and present general counsels.

Craig Rainey, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, The Williams Companies

Elder Care
Adopting one of the most efficient pro bono service models, the Williams legal department has committed to handling all of Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc.’s (Oklahoma Legal Aid) cases concerning estate planning and other end-of-life issues for the elderly poor in its community.  

For several years, the University of Tulsa Law School operated a clinic providing free legal services to persons suffering from poverty and 60 years old or older living in Tulsa, Creek, and Osage counties in northeast Oklahoma.  The clinic, called the Older Americans Law Project, has served hundreds of clients over nine years.  When the University discontinued the clinic, Williams’ legal department stepped in to sustain the clinic and recruited one of its outside firms and Tulsa’s largest law firm, Hall, Estill, Hardwick, Gable, Golden & Nelson, P.C., to help.  Initially, 40 lawyers and paralegals volunteered.  It was the single largest influx of volunteers in Oklahoma Legal Aid’s history. 

Williams’ pro bono committee began by recruiting a local expert attorney and two district court judges to teach the volunteers about a variety of elder law issues.  Williams videotaped the training sessions and housed them on Oklahoma Legal Aid’s website to be accessed by subsequent volunteers.  James Bender, senior vice president and general counsel at the time, took the first case, while  current Senior Vice President and General Counsel Craig Rainey took the second. 

Typical cases for elderly poor clients involve preparation of wills or trusts, real or personal property transactions, advanced medical directives, powers of attorney, or guardianships.  Volunteers occasionally encounter other needs such as consumer problems or issues concerning government benefits. 

During 2009 and 2010, the legal department not only sustained the program, but added more volunteers and significantly expanded the scope of the program.  More than two-thirds of the company’s Tulsa-based attorneys participate in the program along with a majority of paralegals and several administrative assistants. 

Guardian Ad Litem Cases
In addition to work on behalf of the elderly poor, the Williams legal department has undertaken guardian ad litem cases representing Oklahoma Legal Aid clients in garnishment proceedings.  The work includes cases such as children seeking guardianship of elderly parents, grandparents seeking guardianship of grandchildren, or guardianship concerning the financial support of a minor.  Several of the department’s paralegals and other non-lawyers have taken on guardian ad litem work, since the court may appoint non-lawyers to that role. 

Courthouse Assistance Program
Together with Hall Estill and Oklahoma Legal Aid, the Williams legal department has worked with the Tulsa County judiciary to establish a Courthouse Assistance Program.  The objective of the program is for a volunteer attorney to be available at the Forcible Entry and Detainer (FED) Docket to meet with unrepresented parties in the courtroom after the docket is called and, if necessary, to provide representation at the hearings or conferences which take place that same day.  One common case that arises on the FED Docket involves landlords who are trying to evict and/or recover rent from tenants. 

New Collaboration between Old Colleagues
On January 1 of this year, Williams spun off its exploration and production business into a new entity – WPX Energy, Inc. As a result, a number of the lawyers who had worked on the Legal Aid projects at Williams are now in-house at WPX Energy, including Bender.  The two general counsels, Rainey and Bender, and their staffs have implemented processes to enable both legal departments to collaborate on future cases.  The two companies hope to use the new model as a means to recruit other legal departments into the effort.

*denotes a Signatory to the Corporate Pro Bono ChallengeSM

January 27, 2012

CPBO Spotlight On: Nationwide

Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company** adopted a formal pro bono program in 2007.  Members of the legal department gathered to discuss opportunities, potential obstacles, and how the program should be structured and then presented a proposal to Executive Vice President and Chief Legal and Governance Officer Pat Hatler.

Pat Hatler, Executive Vice President and Chief Legal and Governance Officer

She embraced the team’s ideas and recommendations, and the legal department kicked off its pro bono program by co-hosting a Clinic in a BoxSM program with CPBO.  The clinic brought together nearly 40 lawyers, paralegals, and administrative staff to provide legal assistance to central Ohio nonprofit organizations.  The success of the clinic provided a sound foundation upon which Nationwide’s pro bono programs are built.

Mediation Programs
In late 2007, Nationwide’s Pro Bono Committee partnered with Franklin County Municipal Court’s Mediation Program to participate in the program’s evening civil mediation service.  The program’s director conducted a two-day onsite mediation training for 20 members of the Nationwide legal department. Since the initial training, 40 additional volunteers have undergone mediation training, and a new class of 20 volunteers will undergo mediation training later this year. Nationwide’s involvement has grown to include not only the evening civil mediation program, but also a daytime landlord-tenant mediation program, and an evening criminal mediation program run through the city prosecutor’s office.

Associates in Nationwide’s Des Moines, Iowa, office also volunteer with mediation programs.  Volunteers serve as mediators for the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, where Nationwide attorneys facilitate resolutions between employees and employers. Des Moines legal staff also volunteers with the Polk County Volunteer Lawyers Association mediation programs, which includes a project to keep truant youth in school.

In the fall of 2011, Nationwide’s legal department partnered with the Legal Aid Society of Columbus (LASC) and the Paralegal Association of Central Ohio (PACO) to host a CLE program for volunteer attorneys and paralegals.  Volunteers from Nationwide participated in the PACO/LASC Wills Clinic, held monthly at senior centers and retirement homes in central Ohio.  They met with clients and prepared simple wills, living wills, organ donor documents, and financial and health care powers of attorney.

Nationwide attorneys previously partnered with the LASC to staff a clinic to assist pro se defendants in consumer collection cases prepare and file answers and manage simple discovery.  In the summer of 2011, the scope of assistance expanded from staffing a time-limited clinic to include direct and ongoing representation of clients.

Nationwide’s legal professionals in northeast Ohio and Harrisburg, Pa. regularly participate in brief advice clinics offered through their local legal aid service providers or bar associations.

National Adoption Day
Nationwide attorneys and legal staff partnered with the National Center for Adoption Law and Policy at the Capital University Law School, Franklin County Children’s Services, and the Franklin County Probate Court to staff local National Adoption Days.  Nationwide associates facilitated the uncontested adoption of 42 foster children to their foster parents.  The success of Nationwide’s volunteer efforts re-vitalized the local adoption bar to take a more active role in the local National Adoption Day.

In addition, in the wake of the 2008 floods and tornadoes in Des Moines, Nationwide attorneys staffed Iowa’s Disaster Assistance Legal Hotline and provided much-needed legal advice regarding insurance coverage, claims processes and policyholder rights.  Nationwide also participates in the Street Law Corporate Diversity Pipeline Program at Columbus International High School.

*denotes a Signatory to the Corporate Pro Bono ChallengeSM

January 17, 2012

CPBO Spotlight On: Accenture

Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services, and outsourcing company that makes corporate citizenship a priority. From its Skills to Succeed initiative that aims to equip 250,000 people worldwide with the skills to get a job or build a business, to environmental stewardship to pro bono work and corporate giving, Accenture and its people are working to making a sustainable difference in communities around the world.  With such a serious company commitment to doing social good, it is no wonder that Accenture’s legal department boasts an exceptional pro bono program.  Under the helm of Accenture General Counsel, Secretary & Chief Compliance Officer Julie Sweet, the legal department has undertaken a wide range of pro bono efforts, including innovative global pro bono work.

Teaming with Baker & McKenzie in the U.S.
Teaming with Baker & McKenzie*†, Accenture has helped countless elderly, poor clients at educational clinics run by the Center for Disability and Elder Law in Chicago. The pair has also assisted low-income naturalization applicants referred by the National Immigrant Justice Center with their applications and other related processes.  Finally, Accenture and Baker & McKenzie have provided a comprehensive legal assessment of a Chicago-area nonprofit that works to increase and preserve the supply of decent and affordable housing in Illinois for low- and moderate-income households.

Julie Sweet, General Counsel, Secretary & Chief Compliance Officer, Accenture

Global Pro Bono Efforts

Taking advantage of the company’s global reach, Accenture lawyers find opportunities to do pro bono work across borders.  One of the company’s most impressive pro bono efforts is the project it began several years ago in Nepal with the human rights group PILnet.  The team set out to inform international law and normative practices with regard to discrimination of minority populations and to encourage education and literacy.

To this end, Accenture hosted a webinar to provide a forum for the exchange of ideas surrounding education and literacy in developing countries.  From this webinar came an initiative to empower women in the workplace in Nepal, deter sexual harassment, advocate equal pay and rights, and protect health and safety.  Accenture and PILnet expanded the team to include Caterpillar Inc.**, Merck & Co., Inc.**, and Baker & McKenzie—a virtually unprecedented and innovative inter-company, cross-border approach to meaningfully impact humanitarian issues.  The resulting program—which united nearly 70 lawyers in 11 countries —was designed to empower women in the workplace in Nepal, where women and girls as young as 10 years old work in “cabin and dance” restaurants in which they are compelled to smoke, drink, and engage in sexual relations with patrons.  Ultimately, the Supreme Court of Nepal issued a decision decrying the practices and directing the enactment of legislation to address the issue.

* denotes a Signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®
** denotes a Signatory to the Corporate Pro Bono ChallengeSM
denotes a member of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project

September 28, 2011

CPBO Spotlight On: Caterpillar Inc.

Caterpillar established a pro bono program in 2006, under the leadership of Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer Jim Buda, who recognized the benefits of developing a pro bono program, both for the legal division and for the communities in which the company operates.  In five short years, the legal division, which consists of more than 300 attorneys and staff in 26 offices worldwide, has provided thousands of hours of pro bono legal services to those in need.  In addition, a Charter Signatory to the Corporate Pro Bono ChallengeSM, the Caterpillar legal division has met the Challenge’s 50 percent participation goal.  Its success is due not only to management support, but a strong committee infrastructure, including a designated coordinator, a position currently held by paralegal Celeste Poole.

Jim Buda, Vice President, General Counsel, and Secretary, Caterpillar Inc.

The mission of Caterpillar’s pro bono committee is:

[To] facilitate the provision of pro bono services by Caterpillar Legal Services Division attorneys and staff, for organizations and individuals in need, to improve the communities in which we work and live.

The committee carries out this mission through a number of impactful pro bono efforts. 

Pro Bono Clinics
Lawyers and legal staff at Caterpillar’s corporate headquarters in Peoria, Ill., staff numerous clinics each year—both in Peoria and also in Chicago.  One such clinic served immigrants, helping victims of domestic violence obtain U-Visas.  Other clinics have provided legal assistance to disabled and elderly people and first responders by preparing powers of attorney and living wills.  The legal division typically partners with an outside firm and a legal services provider to host these clinics.

Individual Matters and Representation
Lawyers and staff regularly take on a wide range of individual matters including wills, divorce, orders of protection, adoption, 401(c)(3) organization, intellectual property matters, and employment issues.  A majority of these matters are referred to the legal division by a local legal services provider.

Global Pro Bono
Caterpillar has had tremendous success in undertaking global pro bono projects.  Of particular note is a recent case in which Caterpillar lawyers and staff teamed up with Accenture plc**, Merck & Co., Inc.**, Baker & McKenzie* and PILnet (formerly the Public Interest Law Institute) to create a virtually unprecedented and innovative inter-company, cross-border approach to meaningfully impact humanitarian issues. The resulting program united nearly 70 lawyers in 11 countries, all working to help draft model legislation to protect Nepalese women working in “cabin and dance restaurants” from socio-economic and sexual exploitation.  The project was generated by PILnet’s Global Pro Bono Clearinghouse, which disseminates pro bono opportunities for law firm and in-house lawyers to support the work of public interest lawyers around the world.  Based on a public interest case, the Supreme Court of Nepal issued a decision decrying the practices and directing the enactment of legislation to address the issue.  CPBO honored this partnership with its 2010 Pro Bono Partner Award.

Caterpillar is a true leader in in-house pro bono.  In addition to providing pro bono legal services, it has created an outreach team to provide advice and support to other legal departments with regard to their pro bono efforts.  Sharing the experiences of the Caterpillar legal division so that others may learn from them and be more effective in their efforts creates a multiplier effect and results in even more people being assisted.

*denotes a Signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®
**denotes a Signatory to the Corporate Pro Bono ChallengeSM

September 21, 2011

CPBO Spotlight On: LexisNexis Group

LexisNexis is a leading global provider of business information solutions to a wide range of professionals in numerous industries.  Under the leadership of Ken Thompson, a staunch supporter of pro bono, the LexisNexis legal department has undertaken a number of impactful pro bono initiatives.

Southern Africa Litigation Center
In 2007, LexisNexis launched its first pro bono project, which offers support to the Southern Africa Litigation Center (SALC).  SALC trains attorneys, supports human rights cases, and carries out other programs to advance the rule of law.  In partnership with local lawyers and human rights NGOs, SALC identifies the specific constitutional and human rights issues that can be most strategically litigated before domestic courts in southern Africa.  It is especially focused on media freedom cases and on HIV litigation, particularly with regard to discrimination and access to treatment issues for women and children.

A team of five LexisNexis lawyers located across the U.S. provides pro bono legal research assistance to SALC, and addition, LexisNexis has donated six laptop computers and a number of print publications to support these efforts.

Wills For Heroes
For several years, members of the LexisNexis have provided pro bono assistance through the Wills for Heroes program. Wills for Heroes is an organization that provides free wills, living wills, and powers of attorney to first responders and their spouses or domestic partners.  The program was developed in the aftermath of Sept. 11, when it became clear how many first responders lacked simple estate planning documents. 

LexisNexis not only provides pro bono legal services for Wills for Heroes but also computers and technology.  With regard to the administration and institutionalization of the program, HotDocs® software developed by LexisNexis uses document assembly technology to make standardized forms easier to create and use. Product developers at LexisNexis worked with trust and estate planning experts to adapt the technology to create state-specific trust and estate planning templates.  This technology has enabled the expansion of the Wills for Heroes program to lawyers and legal staff across the country. 

Additionally, members of the LexisNexis legal department have volunteered at day-long clinics during which an attorney enters questionnaire data into the HotDocs® program, which then generates a customized estate plan.  The questionnaire also identifies situations in which the first responder should consult an estate planning specialist.  Attorneys review the draft estate planning documents with first responder clients to insure that the documents reflect the first responder’s intent and, once finalized, the documents are signed, witnessed, and notarized in a formal ceremony with LexisNexis volunteers and witnesses.

Since its inception in September 2001, the Wills for Heroes Program, through the use of HotDocs®, has helped more than 8,000 first responders in 13 states. 

Dayton Volunteer Lawyers Program
The LexisNexis legal department has an impact around the world and in its own backyard. Lawyers working at the LexisNexis headquarters in Dayton, Ohio, have partnered with the Greater Dayton Volunteer Lawyers Program, which registers private attorneys to provide pro bono civil legal services in civil case areas.  LexisNexis lawyers have taken on a variety of pro bono matters, primarily in the areas of divorce, bankruptcy, custody, consumer issues, and guardianship.

July 5, 2011

CPBO Spotlight On: Verizon Communications

Randal Milch, Executive Vice President and General Counsel

CPBO ChallengeSM Signatory Verizon Communications Inc. officially launched its pro bono program in late 2009.  Already, the department has exceptionally high pro bono participation rates with attorneys and staff participating in offices across the United States.  So far in 2011, nearly half of Verizon’s attorneys are participating. Under the program, the company’s more than 700 attorneys and staff are encouraged to volunteer a minimum of 25 hours per year.  The department is fortunate to be under the leadership of a true pro bono devotee, Executive Vice President and General Counsel Randal Milch.  The program is chaired by John Frantz, Verizon’s vice president and associate general counsel for complex litigation.

To complement the company’s larger corporate social responsibility efforts, the legal department has decided to focus its pro bono work on the following areas: education, domestic violence, and support for returning veterans.

One hallmark of Verizon’s program is its clear and consistent support from the company’s senior leadership.  Verizon’s first approved pro bono project was to provide legal representation to a school for disadvantaged kids in Washington, D.C.  This project, staffed by John Thorne, senior vice president & deputy general counsel, involves providing ongoing legal advice to the Bishop John T. Walker School for Boys.  This advice spans such areas as real estate, construction contracts, employment issues, loan agreements, and governance.

In 2010, Verizon and its pro bono partner law firm DLA Piper* worked together to staff special education enrollment centers in the Chelsea and Harlem communities of New York.  Students assigned to special education programs often encounter significant challenges in obtaining an education in the New York City public school system – some parents are sent back and forth between schools and enrollment centers without their problems being resolved; some students are kept out of school because they must wait for proper placements or special education services after the school year starts; and some students with disabilities do not receive the special transportation they need to get to school.

Verizon volunteers met with parents experiencing difficulty resolving their children’s special education placement needs.  Specifically, volunteers interviewed parents to better understand their experience obtaining school placement for their children, recorded parents’ experiences, and provided informational materials to parents on their children’s legal rights and resources for assistance.

Verizon also has extensive Street Law Corporate Diversity Pipeline Programs in New Jersey, Virginia, and Illinois.

Domestic Violence
Providing assistance to victims of domestic violence is a second core initiative of Verizon’s philanthropic efforts.  Verizon volunteers have assisted immigrant victims of domestic violence with filing immigration papers; helped domestic violence victims secure protective orders in court; and provided corporate and business law advice to organizations, such as non-profits and shelters, serving victims of domestic violence.  In particular, attorneys have worked with Legal Services of New Jersey to successfully represent victims of domestic violence in restraining order proceedings.  In addition, a team of attorneys and paralegals have been working with a client who was abused by her husband and whose immigration status is in question to secure the safety of her children, obtain employment authorization, find a job, and apply for legal residency.

Recently, Verizon and DLA Piper teamed up for an innovative U-Visa clinic at My Sisters’ Place in White Plains, New York.  Verizon and DLA Piper attorneys met with seven clients at the clinic to help them prepare their U-Visa applications.  Verizon Spanish-speaking legal personnel assisted with notarized translations of birth certificates and marriage licenses.  During the clinic, the attorneys helped the clients to document the violence they had experienced.  Some of the women escaped politically oppressive countries and lived in fear of military violence.  Many of them and their children had suffered severe physical and emotional abuse in their domestic situations.

Support for Veterans
Verizon’s attorneys and legal staff are extensively involved in serving returning veterans,  representing seven disabled veterans in matters before the Department of Veterans Affairs.  In addition, Verizon and DLA Piper launched a new program this year  to support disabled veterans who are eligible to receive Combat-Related Special Compensation from the Department of Defense.  This program is being conducted in partnership with the National Veterans Legal Service Program.  After detailed training from NVLSP, Verizon and DLA Piper attorneys and legal staff have taken on more than 40 clients to help them through the process, which involves gathering evidence and submitting an application and supporting affidavit.

The Verizon legal department believes that helping returning veterans goes beyond assisting with their service-related legal issues.  While on tour in Iraq, two combat Marines dreamed of making it big as filmmakers, which culminated in a budding film production enterprise.  Upon deciding to start a company together, the two Marines encountered a series of legal challenges.  For example, the new business partners needed to determine how best to set up a joint venture that would allow it to strengthen their business partnership and still allow for creative freedom for individual projects.  Also, questions regarding what type of business entity best fit their company’s needs and purpose arose.

With years of experience in corporate formation and tax structuring, a team of Verizon and DLA Piper attorneys worked with the two veterans to formalize their business relationship in the most tax efficient and creatively-conducive manner.

Altogether, more than 50 Verizon attorneys and legal staff are involved in representing returning veterans.

Onsite Pro Bono Clinics
In addition to these projects, Verizon has co-hosted two Clinics in a BoxSM with CPBO and has plans to host several more in the coming year.  During the Clinics, Verizon attorneys receive training from expert lawyers on legal issues that commonly affect nonprofit organizations.  Teams of Verizon attorneys then use their new knowledge to meet with a local nonprofit client and conduct a legal check-up of the organization.  The missions of many of the client organizations involve education, victims of domestic violence, and veterans.

*denotes a Signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®

June 28, 2011

CPBO Spotlight On: Royal Bank of Canada

Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) has been a pro bono leader among Canadian companies. RBC’s success is in large part due to the support of Executive Vice President and General Counsel David Allgood. 

David Allgood, Executive Vice President and General Counsel

Under his supervision, in 2007, RBC adopted a formal pro bono policy and its program has continued to flourish.  With approximately 150 lawyers worldwide, the legal department has provided a wide variety of work for nonprofit organizations, including assistance with incorporation, governance, charitable tax status, employment and real estate issues, legal risk assessments, and the development of policies.  In addition, RBC is involved in a variety of impactful legal pro bono projects, including those listed below.

Small Claims Court Duty Counsel Project
RBC lawyers partner with the law firms of Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP and McMillan to serve as duty counsel at the small claims court.  As duty counsel, RBC lawyers assist eligible individuals in a range of ways, from providing advice and assessing the merits of their cases to advocating at brief appearances in small claims actions.

Volunteer Lawyer Services (VLS)
A group of RBC lawyers have volunteered to serve as presenters for the Volunteer Lawyer Service Seminar Series.  The series covers a variety of legal topics of interest to nonprofit organizations and is provided to nonprofits as a valuable resource.  Sample topics include employment law and policy development.

RBC lawyers have also provided advice and assistance to numerous nonprofits facing a range of legal issues.  For example, two lawyers assisted an organization with amending their bylaws with respect to board members and yearly fees.  The volunteers provided two sets of bylaws, and continue to assist the organization when necessary.  Another lawyer assisted an organization apply for federal funding, which ultimately enabled the organization to expand its programs to local schools.

In 2010, RBC lawyers contributed more than 150 hours of pro bono and community service work through VLS projects.

Unaccompanied Minors Project
Last year, with the approval of the Federal Immigration and Refugee Board, members of RBC’s legal department began working with The Unaccompanied Minors Project to assist unaccompanied children in Canada.  Often these children are sent to Canada by family members desperate to help the child escape compromising circumstances.

The Unaccompanied Minors Project is a partnership between McCarthy Tétrault LLP, Pro Bono Law Ontario, the Immigration and Refugee Board, and Peel Children’s Aid.

Pro Bono Law Ontario (PBLO) and Wellspring Cancer Support Foundation
PBLO and Wellspring have partnered to administer a program called Money Matters, which provides legal assistance to individuals living with cancer who have encountered employment and disability legal issues.  One RBC legal department member attends the clinics to offer advice on human rights, disability insurance coverage, and other employment related topics to cancer survivors participating in the program.

Kids in Need of Defense (KIND)
KIND, like the Unaccompanied Minors Project, is an organization that assists unaccompanied immigrant children in need of legal counsel in the United States.  Each year, KIND provides pro bono legal representation for the approximately 8,000 children who arrive in the United States separated from their families.  Members of RBC’s legal department in New York have partnered with Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP* in order to provide representation to these children.

*denotes a Signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®

April 5, 2011

CPBO Spotlight On: Ford Motor Company

Good corporate citizenship is a top priority at Ford Motor Company.  It’s with that in mind that Ford encourages its employees to spend up to 16 hours of regularly scheduled work time each year participating in volunteer activities.  Within the legal department, the Ford Pro Bono Committee, with the support of Group Vice President and General Counsel David Leitch, ensures that Ford attorneys and other legal department staff have access to a variety of pro bono opportunities.  These engagements include time-limited clinics as well as longer term projects.  Ford volunteers participate in the following pro bono clinics: Read more…

March 18, 2011

CPBO Spotlight On: AT&T Inc.

When the legal department at AT&T formed its pro bono program in 2009, it sought to provide opportunities for its attorneys throughout the United States.  In 2010, the department restructured its program and developed regional pro bono committees to better support its attorneys in different areas around the nation. To ensure a unified program, the department also formed an executive committee to oversee the regional programs efforts.  With support from Senior Executive Vice President and General Counsel Wayne Watts, the program has undertaken many pro bono projects across the country.

In 2010, nearly 100 AT&T lawyers were involved in more than 20 “pre-approved” regional or national pro bono programs and logged participation in more than 200 unique pro bono activities.

AT&T Midwest Region Pro Bono Activities
Center for Disability & Elder Law
More than 20 AT&T attorneys participated in the Center for Disability & Elder Law’s (CDEL) Senior Center Initiative in Chicago, which sends volunteer attorneys into low-income senior communities to assist seniors with completing powers of attorney for property and health care and living wills.

The Midwest Legal Team has a longstanding relationship with CDEL.  AT&T legal staff has participated in CDEL’s Senior Tax Opportunity Program (STOP).  This unique program uses a phone bank approach to call seniors who are in danger of losing their homes because they have delinquent tax bills. Read more…