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Pro Bono As We See It

Guest Blog

June 29, 2018

From Clinic in a Box® to Community Center: How GGP Helped the American Indian Center Find a New Home

Little did a team of GGP attorneys know when they were assigned to assist the American Indian Center (AIC) at a Clinic in a Box® program that it would lead to a three-year pro bono relationship spanning a variety of corporate matters and culminating in a complex real estate deal to find a new home for AIC’s community center. Corporate Pro Bono asked the attorneys at GGP to share their remarkable experience in representing a pro bono client on a long-term engagement. Their story demonstrates the profound impact pro bono can have for both the client and volunteers.


AIC was founded in Chicago in 1953 and is one of the nation’s oldest and largest Native American community centers, serving 65,000 American Indians in the Chicago area. A few years after its founding, a member of the AIC community donated an old Masonic temple building located in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago to AIC. This building served as the social and cultural hub of the organization for the next 60 years. AIC’s treasured home was a community center bustling with social activities, educational programs and social services, as well as the place where children grew up, made best friends, and even met future spouses.

In July 2014, we participated in our first Clinic in a Box® program in Chicago organized by Corporate Pro Bono (CPBO), a global partnership project of Pro Bono Institute and the Association of Corporate Counsel. CPBO paired us and our then-colleague, Kristi Hayek, with AIC to conduct a legal audit. During the clinic, we identified several corporate and real estate matters for which AIC needed ongoing legal assistance, including the relocation of its long-standing community center facility. We decided that very day to retain AIC as a pro bono client because we developed an immediate connection with AIC’s representatives, and recognized that the three of us attorneys at the table had the precise expertise to assist the client.   We assisted AIC with updating its by-laws and drafting certain corporate policies in the months immediately following the clinic. However, it was the real estate project that captivated our team for the better part of the next three years and drew in a number of pro bono partners.

By the time AIC participated in the clinic in 2014, its building was in need of significant capital improvements. At that point, there were two floors in the building cordoned off due to asbestos and the boilers failed, leaving the building with no heat during the cold Chicago winters. AIC could not afford the extensive repairs necessary to maintain the building and needed to relocate. Time was of the essence in helping AIC find a new location.

Early on, we brainstormed ideas for facilities that could accommodate AIC’s needs. This included everything from offices, to classrooms, to a large meeting space such as a gymnasium in order to host cultural events, such as pow wows. We anticipated that the new facility would likely require rezoning and enlisted the assistance of GGP’s local zoning and land use attorneys from Foley & Lardner.* Collectively, we tapped into all of our resources to pinpoint possible facility locations, ranging from large vacant retail stores to closed or closing Chicago schools (which resulted in a meeting with the Deputy Mayor of Chicago).  We also reached out to various consultants to identify creative ways to finance the new facility acquisition and renovation in addition to the anticipated proceeds from the sale of AIC’s existing facility. At the same time, we also put out feelers with our commercial broker contacts and both CBRE and Transwestern jumped at the opportunity to represent AIC. After both companies presented to the Board of Directors of AIC, Transwestern was ultimately selected for the project.

With the persistence of the Transwestern brokers, AIC found its new home a few miles away at the Albany Park Community Center.  The Transwestern brokers also lined up a local residential developer to purchase AIC’s existing facility with plans to convert it to apartments.  We aided AIC in closing the sale of AIC’s former facility to the residential developer in the fall of 2016 and negotiated a post-closing possession agreement that permitted AIC to remain in the building for approximately five additional months. During this time, with the assistance of Andrew Scott at Dykema Gossett,* AIC secured a special use permit for the new facility.  We also helped AIC resolve some environmental issues resulting from the discovery of an old heating oil tank, which required closure in place.

In addition, we reached out to Jody Adler, Director of The Community Law Project, to help us find pro bono attorneys with local property tax expertise.  Jody enlisted several tax attorneys at Jenner & Block* to advise AIC with respect to preservation of its property tax exemption at the old facility post-closing and to assist in preparing and filing a petition for a property tax exemption at the new facility.

With GGP’s help, AIC finally closed on the purchase of its new facility on March 20, 2017. That same day, after a symbolic two-mile walk from their former facility in Uptown, the members of AIC opened the doors to their new community center and began to make it their own. Les Begay, AIC’s Board President, recently sent us an update describing the wide array of programs and activities that have taken place in the last year or are currently being offered at the community center:

  • a traveling picture exhibit of 65 years of AIC Pow Wows
  • Junior Olympic archery development
  • Indigenous Science Days, which discuss indigenous contributions and culture in Chicago
  • Robust Indigenous, a program where community members tell AIC stories
  • Project Beacon, a grant from the DOJ for the education and prevention of human trafficking of Native women
  • Writers Workshops, encouraging Native people to tell their stories
  • Northwest Walking Museum, teaching the importance of plants and land uses by Native people
  • Water at Risk, an event held in August 2017, where the Chairmen of the Standing Rock Sioux and Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin discussed water rights and land sovereignty of their Nations at both the Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law and AIC’s community center facility.

The journey from introduction to AIC at a Clinic in a Box® program through closing the sale and purchase transactions for AIC’s community center was one that we will always remember.  It was truly one of the highlights of our careers and we are so happy to have played a role in helping this wonderful Native American community find its new home.

Special thanks to Marjorie Zessar, Senior Associate General Counsel and Katie Donnelly, Senior Associate General Counsel, at GGP Inc., for their contributions to this post.

* denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® signatory

denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Project® member


January 17, 2017

Guest Blog: Sixth Annual ACC Northeast Chapter Clinic in a Box® Program

Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky, and Popeo†* was honored to once again join with the Association of Corporate Counsel Northeast Chapter (ACC-Northeast), CPBO, and Lawyers Clearinghouse, to host a Clinic in a Box® program to provide pro bono legal services to local nonprofit organizations for the sixth year in a row.

For the 40 in-house volunteers, the day started with a 90-minute training session led by Mintz Levin Attorney Anthony Hubbard who discussed bylaws and retired Casner & Edwards Partner Dick Allen who covered conflicts of interest (COI) policies. After the training, volunteer attorneys broke into small teams and met with 14 local nonprofits to assist with developing or editing the organizations’ bylaws and COI polices.

Volunteer attorneys came from a range of companies, including Adobe Systems Incorporated, Bose Corporation, Boston Scientific Corporation**, GE Oil & Gas (a subsidiary of General Electric Company**), Liberty Mutual Holding Company Inc., National Grid USA, and Velcro Companies.

Through such clinics, the volunteers benefit not only the nonprofits they sit with that day, but the individuals those nonprofits serve. The participating nonprofits provide many critically valuable services, such as assisting low-income immigrant families, providing shelter and services to survivors of domestic violence, and providing learning opportunities for Boston’s public school children.

Mintz Levin is happy to continue to include the Clinic in a Box® program in its many pro bono efforts.    “It is a pleasure to host the clinic in our Boston office and support the great work of in-house counsel dedicating their time and legal expertise to assisting organizations that contribute so much to our community,” notes Sue Finegan, Chair, Pro Bono Committee, Mintz Levin.

Both clients and volunteers had great things to say about their experiences. “This program was very fulfilling and enjoyable!” one volunteer noted. A client added their thanks for the work done that day, commenting, “I thought the clinic was VERY helpful, the individualized attention was great. Thank you so much for your help in organizing!”

Congratulations to the Boston in-house community and thank you to ACC-Northeast, CPBO, and Lawyers Clearinghouse for continuing to co-host the clinic. We look forward to working with you again in 2017 and beyond!

Thank you, Mintz Levin, for contributing to The PBEye.

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

November 1, 2016

Guest Blog: Caterpillar’s Commitment to Renewal House and its Residents

We at The PBEye are inspired every day by the Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatories. In celebration of the 10th anniversary of the launch of the CPBO Challenge® initiative, we are showcasing some of their projects with the hope that they inspire you, too.

From its inception in 2006, the Caterpillar Inc.** Pro Bono Program in Nashville has covered a spectrum of legal matters from researching social security laws in the U.S. to inheritance rights in Kenya; from assisting young immigrants with their deferred action immigration paperwork to helping the elderly and indigent through our simple wills and powers of attorney clinics.

Our longest standing partnership has been with Renewal House, a local nonprofit that provides residential and non-residential treatment programs to women with drug and alcohol addictions. In the residential program, if the mother has custody, her young children may reside with her as she goes through the recovery programs. Over the last 10 years, we have provided a wide variety of legal services to Renewal House and its residents.

As a group, we’ve conducted many simple wills and powers of attorney clinics. In small teams or individually, we’ve been involved in divorce/custody/name change/visitation/child support matters, subpoena matters, worked on their document retention policy, an employee manual as well as a grantcaterpillar application. In addition to conducting document and contract reviews, we have amended their bylaws.

Our pro bono efforts have had a profound impact on Renewal House in that by providing assistance to the struggling mothers we have given them stepping stones to rebuild confidence in their future and to the organization itself, by providing a multitude of free legal services to the nonprofit. In return, Renewal House has given us a sense of accomplishment as we feel that in some small way, we’ve helped make a difference in the lives of the women.

Yvonne Clemence is a paralegal in Caterpillar Inc.’s Legal Services Division and the coordinator of its Nashville Pro Bono Program.  Michael G. Sposato is a Deputy General Counsel in Caterpillar Inc.’s Legal Services Division and its Pro Bono Committee Chair.

** denotes a Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory

October 25, 2016

Guest Blog: Review-A-Rama Takes Off: UHG and CVLC Mobilize Volunteers for Vets

We at The PBEye are inspired every day by the Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatories. In celebration of the 10th anniversary of the launch of the CPBO Challenge® initiative, we are showcasing some of their projects with the hope that they inspire you, too.

Legal communities across the country are turning toward unbundled legal services to improve access to justice. In 2015, inspired by this trend and by the possibilities of expanding justice for Connecticut’s disabled veterans, UnitedHealth Group** (UHG) and The Connecticut Veterans Legal Center (CVLC) launched Review-a-Rama, a model for limited-scope pro bono assistance by in-house legal staff.

UHG and CVLC are now mid-way through the third round of Review-a-Rama. More than 170 UHG law department employees from across 26 states pledged to review over 30,000 pages of veteran medical and military files between Memorial Day and Veterans Day 2016. With this major effort underway, we can now report on our successes and lessons learned thus far.

The Solution to a Tremendous Need

In designing Review-a-Rama, CVLC and UHG sought to alleviate a bottleneck in CVLC’s workflow while also providing short-term volunteer opportunities for employees in UHG’s legal department, including paralegal and administrative staff. The Review-a-Rama project model allows CVLC attorneys to more efficiently handle cases that require the time-consuming review of very large medical and military files by engaging UHG employees to handle those initial reviews. Single files can number more than 1,000 pages apiece and take hours to review carefully for pertinent evidence.

UHG employees go through a training program with CVLC on how to conduct their reviews and CVLC shares file-specific instructions on what types of information to look for in each case. The more detailed the instructions for each file, the more equipped volunteers are to have a productive volunteer experience.

When they receive their file, UHG volunteers read the documents and parse out important content. Volunteers then summarize the content for CVLC attorneys, creating an evidentiary timeline with page references to the primary source material. Volunteers send the evidentiary timelines back to CVLC attorneys, who use them to provide faster turnaround on case merit assessments, client advisements, and brief writing.

The Right Match

Review-a-Rama works because it strikes the right note between providing an important service to CVLC’s clients and harnessing the energy, skills, and generosity of a large group of UHG volunteers. Engaging volunteers for unbundled document review provides a significant service to CVLC’s clients.

Review-a-Rama not only requires the time and attention of the UHG volunteers who review files, it also requires a significant collaborative planning effort by UHG project leads Denise Zamore, Eric Greenberg, and Emily Robakiewicz. Frequent, regular phone calls between UHG and CVLC allowed the team to brainstorm creative ideas and anticipate challenges together as the project expanded.

UHG Deputy General Counsel and Pro Bono Committee Co-Chair Brian DuPerre, who has been an active part of the project team said, “It’s been exciting to see this concept grow from a local pilot program with 27 participants to a national pro bono project open to all of our 1,300 plus law department colleagues across the country. To have 13 percent of our law department volunteering their skills on a single project is unprecedented since we have staff in nearly every corner of the country.” When we think about why this program has been so successful we reflect on the lessons learned. DuPerre added, “A key lesson for us has been to keep this simple, effective and efficient by permitting volunteers to pick their commitment level as well as the time period in which to complete their tasks.”

CVLC Executive Director Margaret Middleton describes the culture of the partnership. “We are really grateful to the UHG team for helping us figure out how to make this novel idea work,” Middleton said. “This was a collaborative brainstorm. It’s great when you have a corporate partner who is open to reviewing and enhancing the process with you.”  Trying out ideas, making changes to improve the process with each iteration, and the importance of open communication have all been instrumental qualities of this partnership and have set the stage for Review-a-Rama’s success.

The Bottom Line

UHG’s epic effort in Review-a-Rama has helped CVLC achieve its mission. For clients of CVLC, legal services can mean the difference between stable housing, accessible healthcare, and a steady income – or living on the street. CVLC’s mission is to assist veterans recovering from homelessness and mental illness in removing barriers to health, housing, and income.

CVLC’s attorneys appreciate the help in providing more efficient services to clients. CVLC Senior Counsel Christy Fischer expressed her gratitude saying, “Review-A-Rama has been a wonderful expansion of CVLC’s ability to assist veterans. The RAR teams have allowed CVLC staff attorneys to timely review numerous files. The additional eyes on the case have proved invaluable.”

The size and scope of the volunteer engagement in Review-a-Rama reflects a willingness and desire on the part of UHG employees to provide meaningful assistance to veterans. As one volunteer said, “I am thankful for this opportunity to assist the State of Connecticut and our Veterans.” In order to serve veterans who have served us, it seems fitting to honor Connecticut’s by mobilizing a small army of volunteers.

Millie VandenBroek is the Howard R. Udell Staff Attorney and Cara Cancelmo is the Director of Development and Communications at Connecticut Veterans Legal Center.

** denotes a Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory

October 11, 2016

Guest Blog: Partnering in Chicago to Make a Difference

We at The PBEye are inspired every day by the Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatories. In celebration of the 10th anniversary of the launch of the CPBO Challenge® initiative, we are showcasing some of their projects with the hope that they inspire you, too.

For more than two years, Discoverdiscover-quote Financial Services** volunteers have joined with DLA Piper*† and LAF, a Chicago legal services provider, to host a free legal services clinic in the Woodlawn neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. The monthly clinic began in 2009 in response to the critical, unmet legal needs many low-income families in the area face, including housing and landlord tenant issues, public benefits, child support, and expungement of criminal records.  Since its inception, the Woodlawn Legal Clinic has served over 1,000 low-income clients living in the underserved South Side of Chicago.

In 2013, Discover’s pro bono committee was introduced to DLA Piper and LAF and jumped at the opportunity to become involved in their efforts. Since first attending the clinic, more than 20 Discover lawyers and 10 non-lawyers have spent in excess of 200 cumulative hours volunteering.

So far in 2016, Discover attorneys, paralegals, and interns have volunteered at the Woodlawn Legal Clinic six times and participated in more than 20 other pro bono events and projects. Here is what one of our lawyers had to say about Discover’s pro bono program: “I am very proud to be part of a company and a Law Department that so strongly values and supports my participation in pro bono activities.” My sentiments exactly.

Gary Wachtel is a Director in Discover Financial Services’ Law Department and its Pro Bono Committee Chair.

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

September 20, 2016

Guest Blog: Boston Scientific Makes an Impact

We at The PBEye are inspired every day by the  Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatories. In celebration of the 10th anniversary of the launch of the CPBO Challenge® initiative, we are showcasing some of their projects with the hope that they inspire you, too.

At Boston Scientific Corporation**, a global medicalboston-scientific-logo device company dedicated to transforming patient lives through innovative medical solutions, one of our credos is “Everyone Makes an Impact.” This statement rings true not only with respect to the company’s commitment to patient care but its philosophy on corporate citizenship, including contributions made through its pro bono program. Although Boston Scientific’s pro bono program is relatively young, it has already made a meaningful impact in its surrounding communities.

Boston Scientific’s legal department historically participated in pro bono activities, but in 2014, Tim Pratt, Boston Scientific’s Executive Vice President, Chief Administrative Officer, General Counsel and Secretary, decided he wanted to do more. That year, Pratt commissioned the establishment of a pro bono committee to lay the foundation of a formal pro bono program within the company and signed Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® statement.  As noted by Pratt, “We are privileged to be members of this extraordinary legal profession, and we must never forget what inspired us to join it—the opportunity to help others in need.  In no group is that more important than for those who can’t help themselves because of their life circumstances or other challenges.  For them, we must be there to provide legal services, not just because it makes us feel good about ourselves, but also because it’s the right thing to do.  I exhort my lawyers to make an impact by engaging in pro bono activities.  It’s part of our Company’s mission of helping others.”

Since that time, the pro bono program has matured and developed several meaningful partnerships with various nonprofits and law firm partners located near our principal U.S. office locations in California, Massachusetts, and Minnesota. In California, Boston Scientific partners with the Alliance for Children’s Rights to provide legal assistance to children in need, including guardianship and immigration cases. In Massachusetts, where the company is headquartered, Boston Scientific is an annual participant in the Clinic in a Box® program co-sponsored by CPBO, the Northeast ACC Chapter, the Lawyers Clearinghouse, and Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo†*.  Boston Scientific also staffs legal clinics for the homeless sponsored by Lawyers Clearinghouse and has partnered with the Victim Rights Law Center, the first nonprofit legal center dedicated to providing legal representation to victims of rape and sexual assault. In Minnesota, the company partners with Faegre Baker Daniels†* to staff the Hennepin County Conciliation Court Clinic, which provides information and counseling services to pro se litigants.

Boston Scientific is happy to be one of many corporate legal departments giving back to their communities. Whether you have a large or small legal department, getting involved in pro bono is easy. CPBO has a variety of resources available to help you as well as information on the CPBO Challenge® initiative. Every pro bono hour contributed makes an impact!

Thank you, Boston Scientific Corporation, for contributing to The PBEye.

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

September 6, 2016

Guest Blog: Growing Pro Bono Work Around the World

We at The PBEye are inspired every day by the Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatories. In celebration of the 10th anniversary of the launch of the CPBO Challenge® initiative, we are showcasing some of their projects with the hope that they inspire you, too.

By Erica Wang, General Counsel, 3M China and Hong Kong

3M Company’s** General Counsel Ivan Fong likes to quote Marian Wright Edelman, president and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, to describe our legal team’s approach to pro bono work: “Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life and not something you do in your spare time.”

Perhaps that’s why pro bono legal work, which has long been a growing focus at our company’s Minnesota headquarters, is spreading to our attorneys around the world – even some parts of the world where it’s still a developing concept. In China, we recently organized our first pro bono workshop with international law firm Hogan Lovells*† at the 3M Shanghai Innovation Center.

Social enterprises are booming in China, along with increasing attention and care to the underprivileged population and China’s societal sustainability, but they often lack legal and other professional support. At our workshop, 3M and Hogan Lovells attorneys advised five charitable organizations on their business operations. The five organizations that participated in the workshop are:

  1. Shanghai Ju Shan Zhu Can Public Welfare Development Center. Its Chinese name, Ju Shan Zhu Can, means “collection of kindness to support the disabled.” The Center created China’s first online charity store five years ago, which takes in unused clothing and household items or business inventory, and then sells them online. The organization provides employment opportunities to people with disabilities and also uses the revenue to run charitable programs.
  2. Netspring Social Enterprise. It collects used computers from companies to distribute to rural schools, which not only supports the education of children living in poverty, but also reduces e-waste by continuing the usefulness of the computers.
  3. Shanghai Laogang Town Beilan Environmental Protection Service Center. The name “Beilan” in Chinese refers to ensuring a blue sky for younger generations. It focuses on environmental protection by way of recycling used clothes.
  4. GeiLi Giving. The name “Geili” in Chinese means giving power. It collects donations, sells goods for charity and conducts other charitable activities via a public service web platform.
  5. Shanghai Yi Tu Wu Zhang Ai Art Studio. The name “Yi Tu Wu Zhang Hai” means no barrier to becoming artists. This studio was set up in 2010 to help children with autism experience the arts and develop their skills.

Each enterprise was paired with a small group of attorneys. We learned about their initiatives, missions, and challenges, and, based on that, we provided specific solutions from legal and risk control perspectives. Each enterprise received more than an hour of dedicated consulting in a private meeting room.

The participants were very pleased about the interaction with legal professionals, and we were grateful to have the opportunity to contribute to their important work. We aim to contribute more and are about to organize our second pro bono activity in the second half of this year. All of us felt what is to be gained by giving.

Thank you, 3M Company, for contributing to The PBEye.

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

August 23, 2016

Guest Blog: Pro Bono Spotlight on AIG

We at The PBEye are inspired every day by the Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatories. In celebration of the 10th anniversary of the launch of the CPBO Challenge® initiative, we are showcasing some of their projects with the hope that they inspire you, too.

TealPumpkinHundreds of children will be trick or treating more safely this Halloween thanks to AIG** colleague Shama Elliott. Elliott, an Intellectual Property (IP) Manager in the Global Legal, Compliance, Regulatory, and Government Affairs department, assisted Food Allergy Research Education (FARE) with securing its trademark registrations for the Teal Pumpkin Project design (pictured). This distinct pumpkin design logo is posted on residences and local businesses to help raise awareness of and to protect children from life-threatening food allergies. It lets parents know that the home or business is offering allergy-free, non-food treats for trick-or-treaters on Halloween.

We all know that pro bono service is a meaningful way for lawyers and non-lawyers to serve their communities. Elliott knows how meaningful such service can be.

“I have always had a passion for public service, but I never anticipatedShama Elliott that my legal expertise in IP would be something a pro bono client would need. In 2012, when I started participating in AIG Pro Bono Program events, I realized that my IP knowledge and skills were valued by our nonprofit organization and small business clients. I was able to use skills I have acquired in my role as an AIG IP Manager to help nonprofits and aspiring small business owners protect their brand – a key element to building brand awareness and value, and furthering the organization’s mission.”

You can read more about unique opportunities for IP professionals to use their expertise in our blog Cutting Edge Pro Bono: Patent Law and Low-Income Inventors.

Thank you, American International Group, Inc., for contributing to The PBEye.


** denotes a Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory


August 4, 2016

Guest Blog: Legal Pro Bono Project Helping Those in Need

We at The PBEye are inspired every day by the Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatories. In celebration of the 10th anniversary of the launch of the CPBO Challenge® initiative, we are showcasing some of their projects and letting them inspire you too.

PNC Bank** Legal’s Pro Bono Project is justPNC two years old, but it’s already made a big difference in the lives of those who otherwise could not afford to pay for legal services.

With 30 engagements in the second half of 2014 and more than 70 in 2015, the Project has surpassed its goals. Those numbers also show the program is achieving its goal of ingraining pro bono work in the culture of the company’s Legal employees.

“Not only are you helping people who need the skills we can provide, but you’re expanding your own knowledge and skill set,” said Mark Gittelman, managing chief counsel – Bankruptcy and Business Restructuring, who manages the program. “You’re meeting different people and doing different things.”

Advocating for those in need.  PNC’s lawyers are helping aspiring small-business owners with the legal aspects of forming their business, and creating wills and living wills for senior citizens. They’re involved with initiatives like The Name Change Project, which helps transgender people navigate the legal aspects of changing their names to match their identities, and the Homeless Advocacy Project, which helps homeless people with issues like Social Security benefits or having long-past, minor criminal records expunged so they can get jobs and break the cycle of poverty.

They’re also providing legal services to youths in the Philadelphia foster care system, making sure that, while other lawyers are looking out for their parents’ interests, someone is advocating for them. “That’s very rewarding,” Gittelman said. “You can have a child in a very bad situation and help put them in a much better one.”

The program recently added a Pittsburgh location to the work PNC’s lawyers in Philadelphiahave been doing with the Pennsylvania Innocence Project. Based out of Temple University Beasley School of Law in Philadelphia, the project uses law students and pro bono lawyers to screen applications from prisoners for substantial claims of innocence, then takes on select cases with the goal of exonerating and releasing those who have been wrongly convicted.

‘The most amazing experience.’ To further strengthen the program in the PNC Legal culture, the team hosted PNC Pro Bono Week in September 2015, lining up a number of opportunities for prospective volunteers to get involved. Social service providers came into offices where the company has lawyers — in Chicago, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Washington, D.C. — to conduct training, or PNC’s lawyers visited law offices to participate in legal service clinics available to the public.

This year, the Pro Bono Project plans to expand its work with the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, conduct legal service clinics in more cities across PNC’s footprint, coordinate efforts between SeniorLAW Center locations in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to protect the rights of older Pennsylvanians, and “offering as many different opportunities in as many areas as possible,” Gittelman said.


Thank you, PNC Bank, for contributing to The PBEye.

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

July 5, 2016

Guest Blog: Legal Pro Bono at Salesforce

SalesforceWe at The PBEye are inspired every day by the Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatories.  In celebration of the 10th anniversary of the launch of the CPBO Challenge® initiative, we are showcasing some of their projects and letting them inspire you too.

At Salesforce**, giving back is part of our DNA. Through our 1-1-1 model of integrated philanthropy, all employees are given seven days of volunteer time off (VTO) that they can use toward any cause they are passionate about. The legal team actively participated in VTO events, using our hours to volunteer at organizations like SF Food Bank and the San Francisco Zoo. While we were active volunteers, there was a hunger to help out with skills-based volunteering – to use our legal skills to help the less fortunate have access to justice, spanning the legal departments of both Salesforce and, the philanthropic arm of the company.

With the support of the Salesforce General Counsel Amy Weaver, we got started quickly building a program. The Association of Corporate Counsel** quickly led me to Eve Runyon, then-director of Corporate Pro Bono, who provided a host of information, networking opportunities, and help starting the program. After talking to Eve, I went about by getting support within the department, forming a Pro Bono Committee and surveying the lawyers. Armed with feedback on our team’s interest areas, we jumped at the first opportunity to partner with the San Francisco Bar Association’s Justice and Diversity Center, along with other lawyers from firms and veteran services providers, to staff a one-day free legal and social services clinic for U.S. Veterans. From there, we continued to find events we could do at least quarterly, slowly moving from a headquarter-centric approach to a broader one that could include our global offices.

One of the most interesting projects we have worked on to date was completed globally, with contributions from lawyers in Paris, London, Toronto, San Francisco, and New York. The Salesforce legal teams partnered with Baker & McKenzie*† to draft a toolkit for judges in South Asia adjudicating terrorism cases in their national courts. The toolkit was designed to support the effective adjudication of terrorism cases by judges from the member states of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation. The project was a collaborative partnership between the two organizations with a truly global scope resulting in one of the strongest pro bono efforts the team has undertaken to date. The resulting toolkit will be used as a template to be adapted by judges and judicial academies in other regions throughout the world.

The legal pro bono program has really blossomed at Salesforce over the last two years and continues to be a popular way to give back to the communities in which the lawyers work and live on a global basis. You can read about our latest project in Brussels at our blog.

Shanti Ariker is SVP & General Counsel of 

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

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