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2017 Laurie D. Zelon Pro Bono Award

The Legal Department of Exelon Corporation

Pro Bono Institute’s (PBI) annual Laurie D. Zelon Pro Bono Award honors Judge Zelon’s Leadership and her singular contributions to enhancing justice for all. PBI is honored to present the 2017 award to Exelon Corporation for its pro bono efforts and leadership within the legal community to increase pro bono legal services and improve access to justice.

Headquartered in Chicago, with legal department staff also in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., Exelon’s mission is to be the leading diversified energy company and its vision includes providing “innovation, best-in-class performance and thought leadership to help drive progress for our customers and communities.” That dedication to innovation, service, and leadership permeates its pro bono activities as well.

Exelon, a charter signatory to the CPBO Challenge® initiative, began its formal pro bono efforts 15 years ago when it adopted a policy encouraging pro bono engagement by legal department staff. At the time, pro bono was still a relatively new endeavor for in-house departments. Since then, the program has grown under the support and example of each of former general counsel Darryl Bradford, Randall Mehrberg, William Von Hoene, and Andrea Zopp, as well as current Senior Vice President and General Counsel Thomas O’Neill. As a result, Exelon has developed programs that involve almost all of its more than 100 attorneys and nearly as many legal department staff in pro bono.

Led by dedicated local pro bono leaders, members of the Exelon legal department are engaged in matters ranging from drafting end-of-life documents for first responders to estate planning for low-income seniors. Pro bono has become an integral part of the culture and is included in the Exelon legal department’s annual all-hands meetings, held in each office and staffed by the general counsel.

Exelon’s influence has had an impact well beyond its volunteers and the clients they assist.  Exelon not only leads by example, but its pro bono team has worked to expand in-house counsel engagement in pro bono by mentoring in-house pro bono leaders and inviting other legal departments to join their pro bono efforts. In addition, Exelon recognizes its position of influence and has incorporated pro bono into its evaluation of outside counsel, who are frequent partners in the effort to increase access to justice.

“It is an honor to be recognized by Pro Bono Institute, an organization that provides so much support to in-house legal departments and law firms alike in building, enhancing, and transforming their pro bono programs,” O’Neill said. “At Exelon, we recognize the importance of supporting the communities we serve, beyond delivering clean, affordable and reliable energy. Many families don’t have access to legal services, and this is one way we can help address a critical, unmet need in our communities.”

Thomas S. O’NeillThomas O'Neill headshot
Senior Vice President & General Counsel
Exelon Corporation

O’Neill was named the company’s senior vice president and general counsel in January 2017. He serves as the top legal advisor to Exelon’s senior management and oversees the company’s legal and corporate governance departments.

O’Neill was formerly senior vice president, Energy and Regulatory Policy and general counsel at Exelon utility ComEd, where he played a key role in the development and passage of Illinois’ Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act.  Prior to that, O’Neill held leadership roles within Exelon including serving as senior vice president and Chief Operating Officer of Exelon Transmission Company. O’Neill was responsible for new business development initiatives within Exelon Generation. He oversaw development, construction, and the start-up of Exelon’s 10MW demonstration solar plant on Chicago’s South side. He also managed the formation and initial marketing efforts of Exelon Nuclear Partners, which markets Exelon Nuclear’s operational expertise to international new-build and domestic turnaround customers. He was also the lead executive for the project to submit a construction and operating license (COL) to the U.S Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a dual-unit nuclear power plant in Texas. Prior to joining Exelon in 2001, O’Neill was a partner with the law firm of Jenner & Block in Chicago.

O’Neill serves on the board of directors of the Christopher House, a 100-year old Chicago organization dedicated to assisting children and families in need through integrated social, educational and human services programs.

O’Neill received his Bachelor of Arts degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and his law degree from University of Notre Dame Law School.