MassMutual’s Law Department
in partnership with the
Hampden County Bar Association Legal Clinic
for their strategic collaboration to expand pro bono programs that improve access to justice for the underserved residents of Hampden County.
A recent study by the Boston Bar Association found that civil legal aid programs in Massachusetts turn away 64 percent of eligible low-income residents due to a lack of legal resources. Hampden County, the most populous county in western Massachusetts, with the second highest poverty rate in the state (17.7 percent), has a critical need to both increase the participation of local lawyers in pro bono service and expand opportunities for pro bono in the area. The partnership between MassMutual and the HCBA Legal Clinic is designed to fill this justice gap.
MassMutual and the HCBA Legal Clinic began partnering on pro bono in 2007 (the year that MassMutual founded its pro bono program) and developed their current program in 2011, with MassMutual providing the HCBA Legal Clinic both grant funding and volunteer participation in the HCBA Legal Clinic’s pro bono programs. Since then, MassMutual has undertaken complete financial sponsorship of the HCBA Legal Clinic and continued its support through the present day. In 2017, nearly 90 percent of the attorneys in MassMutual’s Corporate Law Department, along with almost 50 percent of its administrative and paralegal staff, participated in pro bono services. Together they donated more than 1,000 hours of service. With the funding and support from MassMutual, the HCBA Legal Clinic has become a leading center for pro bono service in western Massachusetts.
The HCBA Legal Clinic currently oversees or is associated with programs in the Springfield District Court, Western Division Housing Court, and Hampden Probate and Family Court through several initiatives. These initiatives include programs that guide consumers with forms, match volunteer lawyers with litigants in eviction cases, provide legal advice, prepare financial statements, and much more. Through this partnership, MassMutual has provided a wealth of resources beyond funding and volunteers that would not otherwise be available to the HCBA Legal Clinic. These resources include logistical support and hardware, expertise of MassMutual’s data scientists to provide technological and data capabilities to the HCBA Legal Clinic, and in-house training for the program’s volunteers who wish to develop competencies to support their pro bono efforts.
About the CPBO Pro Bono Partner Award
Corporate Pro Bono (CPBO), the global partnership project of Pro Bono Institute and the Association of Corporate Counsel, created the CPBO Pro Bono Partner Award to recognize the unique role partnerships between and among in-house legal departments, law firms, and public interest groups play in providing pro bono legal services.
The award honors legal departments and the organizations with which they partner in the provision of legal services to those in need. The award recipients are departments, law firms, and public interest organizations that have demonstrated an impact on their community through their partnership project, shown substantial involvement in the project by in-house lawyers, made tangible steps toward sustaining the relationship among the partners, developed innovative substantive or structural approaches in support of the partnership’s effort, and addressed a critical legal need or assisted a particularly vulnerable community or target population.
Over the years, the impact and innovation of the projects supported by the award recipients have been tremendously important both in the projects’ ability to address the legal needs of the communities being served and in the role the partnerships have played in supporting and furthering pro bono work, especially within the in-house community. Through these partnerships, legal departments, law firms, and public interest organizations have devised programs that contribute to the legal profession’s efforts to close the justice gap and that create strong legacies of effective pro bono service.