Pro Bono Institute’s (PBI) annual LAURIE D. ZELON PRO BONO AWARD honors Judge Zelon’s pro bono leadership and her singular contributions to enhancing justice for all. The 2015 Zelon award is given to William J. Casazza and the Law & Regulatory Affairs Department of Aetna Inc., a leading diversified health care benefits company, in recognition of their outstanding commitment to pro bono legal service.
Aetna’s legal department has a long and distinguished history of pro bono service that began with the creation of a formal pro bono program 35 years ago and includes becoming a charter signatory of the Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® initiative. Today, under the leadership of Casazza, over half of the attorneys and a large number of paralegals and administrative assistants consistently participate in pro bono activities.
From its headquarters in Hartford, Connecticut, Aetna has led several noteworthy, ongoing pro bono efforts that have significantly impacted the lives of numerous clients and the community. Since the establishment of the Connecticut Lawyers’ Legal Aid to the Elderly Program in 1981, Aetna has handled hundreds of cases for elderly clients in the greater Hartford area dealing with issues such as estate planning, landlord-tenant disputes, and government benefits. In 1994, Aetna’s legal department helped found Lawyers for Children America (LFCA), which recruits volunteer lawyers to represent abused and neglected children and promotes a multi-disciplinary approach to representation to ensure that each child’s legal, medical, psychological, and educational needs are recognized and addressed. LFCA became an independent nonprofit in 1995, though Aetna continues to support the organization by providing office space and covering operating expenses. In 2007, Aetna served as the lead sponsor for legal clinics in Connecticut in collaboration with Bet Tzedek Legal Services to provide legal support to Holocaust victims eligible for reparations under a program announced by the German government, providing staff for the clinics and encouraging local law firms to participate. Aetna renewed its commitment to this program in 2011 by reviewing previously denied applications for survivors whose cases have been re-opened and may potentially receive significant back payments. In 2014, Aetna strengthened its partnership with the Center for Children’s Advocacy and the Connecticut Medical/Legal Partnership, sending more than 30 Connecticut lawyers and legal professionals to sponsored clinics to help advocate for children and their families.
Aetna’s pro bono program extends to all of its offices with legal staff. For example, law department members located in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, have provided legal representation to child victims of abuse and neglect. They have helped homeless and indigent persons complete and submit applications to obtain official birth certificates, which are needed to obtain a variety of public benefits. Lawyers in several locations across the country perform in-person client intake sessions at local legal aid offices.
Aetna also understands that its legal department is full of staff with varying areas of interest and time to commit to pro bono work. In 2011, to ensure that the pro bono program stays fresh and responsive to the interests of its legal team, Aetna expanded its program to allow for a greater focus on individual volunteers and projects. Aetna conducted a department-wide skills inventory and interest list and paired attorneys and legal assistants with projects in the geographic areas and subject matters that appealed to them most. For example, Aetna worked with local pro bono organizations in Connecticut to match attorneys with expertise in health insurance law to assist local nonprofit health clinics, hospitals, and health foundations with reviewing business associate agreements, drafting HIPAA privacy policies and procedures, and addressing intellectual property issues. In addition, Aetna routinely provides analysis of complex managed care issues – an area in which its attorneys are uniquely positioned to lend a hand. Lastly, Aetna lawyers and its legal assistants tackle projects for organizations that have personal meaning to them. As a result, veterans’ organizations, art collaboratives, schools, foundations and other deserving non-profits across the country have benefitted from Aetna’s diverse interests in pro bono.
Executive Vice President and General Counsel
Law & Regulatory Affairs
William J. Casazza is Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Law & Regulatory Affairs, reporting to the Company’s Chairman, CEO and President, Mark T. Bertolini.
Mr. Casazza joined Aetna’s Law & Regulatory Affairs department in 1992. Mr. Casazza was promoted to Vice President and Deputy General Counsel in 1997 and to Corporate Secretary in 1999. He has been General Counsel since 2005.
Previously, Mr. Casazza was engaged in the private practice of law with Sullivan & Cromwell, a Wall Street law firm, specializing in corporate/securities law matters and mergers and acquisitions. Prior to that, Mr. Casazza was a Certified Public Accountant with Ernst & Young.
Mr. Casazza holds a Bachelor of Arts degree cum laude from Tufts University; a Masters of Business Administration with high distinction from the University of Notre Dame Graduate School of Business Administration; and a Juris Doctor, magna cum laude, with distinction in all subjects, from Cornell Law School.