More than 300 participants from law firms, legal departments, and public interest organizations from around the world attended the 2017 PBI Annual Conference held on March 8-10 in Washington, D.C. Sessions covered a wide array of topics, including new challenges to civil rights and liberties, as well as recurring areas of interest for pro bono leaders, such as budgeting and maintaining attorney engagement.
On the morning of March 8, law firm representatives convened for “Law Firm Pro Bono 101” and in-house pro bono leaders chose from two concurrent sessions for mature and new programs. Attendees met with peers during Regional Joint Networking Exchanges followed by a lunch program about new challenges to the access to justice landscape.
On March 8, a panel of leaders of Women’s March Inc., along with pro bono counsel from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom*†, spoke during the Opening Plenary. Breanne Butler, Director and Global Coordinator; Mrinalini Chakraborty, State Co-Coordinator; and Emma Collum, State Co-Coordinator, described their grassroots efforts to mobilize an estimated 4 million people to march around the world on January 21, 2017, and the ways pro bono can support the diverse issues raised by the movement. Afternoon sessions addressed a range of topics from maintaining momentum during long duration projects to engaging baby-boomers. The day concluded with peer-to-peer networking and discussions.
The Conference continued on March 9 with sessions on pro bono program issues including building partnerships among legal departments and law firms, ethics, and finding funding for pro bono programs. Other sessions focused on topical issues such as events in Ferguson, Missouri; Korematsu v. United States and the incarceration of Japanese Americans; and “juvenile lifers” in prison. Representatives of public interest organizations hosted tables in the late afternoon at the Pro Bono EXPO and Happy Hour, a unique networking opportunity and catalyst for new pro bono relationships and initiatives.
PBI presented its 2017 Laurie D. Zelon Pro Bono Award to the Legal Department of Exelon Corporation** during the Annual Conference Reception on the evening of March 9 at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. CPBO Advisory Board member Ona Alston Dosunmu introduced Norman Eisen, a Fellow with Governance Studies at The Brookings Institution, Founder and Chair of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), and Former Ambassador to the Czech Republic and Ethics Czar during the Obama administration. Eisen gave the keynote address describing pro bono work as part of lawyers’ DNA and woven through the entire legal profession. Kenneth M. Kulak, Partner, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius*†, presented the Zelon Award to Thomas S. O’Neill, Senior Vice President & General Counsel of Exelon. To learn more about Exelon’s pro bono program, see press release below. PBI Board of Directors Chair James W. Jones also delivered introductory remarks.
On the final day of the conference, Jerome Deroy, CEO and Lead Trainer, Narativ, led an interactive session on storytelling to engage volunteers and funders. The session focused on creating universal, relatable, and engaging stories. Jerome showed video examples and attendees then created their own stories of why they do pro bono work and practiced telling them in partner groups. They came away with personal stories and tactics for engaging listeners. PBI added bonus programming in the afternoon to offer attendees time to discuss best practices for organizing and leveraging our pro bono efforts in light of current events and political realities.
Award Recipient: The Legal Department of Exelon Corporation
Photos: 2017 Annual Conference Photos
Social Media: View Tweets from the Conference