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From wildfires to hurricanes, terror attacks to travel and refugee bans—the number of emergency events that required a pro bono response has grown dramatically over the last two years. Last year alone saw Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, travel bans, the announcement of DACA’s repeal, and the California wildfire season — the most destructive season on record.
A popular session at the 2018 Pro Bono Institute Annual Conference was “Times of Crisis: Pro Bono and Emergency Response.” In her introductory remarks, Julia Wilson, chief executive officer of OneJustice, challenged attendees to think about this session a little differently. She asked that they not share war stories—and instead work toward taking actionable items away from their discussions. She asked the group of 200 to think about “what will you do differently on Monday?” and to tap into the collective knowledge and expertise in the room to develop forward-thinking strategies and ideas to take back to attendees’ organizations.
This conference closing session was a call to action to raise awareness and/or preparation levels and generated several important ideas for attendees to consider. The panelists and facilitators included pro bono leaders who have been involved in providing resources, services, training, and organizing for emergency and urgent response situations for many decades.
One of the main takeaways was the need to begin preparing now. Rebecca Greenhalgh, senior associate and pro bono manager at Ashurst†, put it succinctly with a quote from the UK Emergency Planning College: “If you’re learning how to manage during an emergency, it’s probably too late.” Tiela Chalmers, chief executive officer and general counsel of the Alameda County Bar Association, echoed that sentiment: “No matter what you do [to prepare], it’s better than doing nothing.”
Lone Star Legal Aid’s Disaster Relief Unit Manager, Saundra Brown, spoke about the growing rise of technology in emergency response and the need for disaster legal aid services to prepare resources in advance and, crucially, be mobile-friendly. Individuals, especially those of limited means, access the internet through their smart phones and so materials must be provided to them in easy-to-read and easy-to-access formats.
Greenhalgh expanded on the concept of not overburdening local legal services organizations. She and Felicity Kirk of Ropes & Gray were among those who coordinated volunteer lawyers providing support to North Kensington Law Centre in their response to the Grenfell Tower fire. Greenhalgh said that a major issue in the response to the fire was the sheer number of volunteers, highlighting the challenge for the legal sector of ensuring advice organisations could continue to meet client needs and not be overwhelmed by the process of managing would-be volunteers.
Brenna DeVaney, director of pro bono programs at Skadden*†, addressed the issue of enthusiasm overload raised by Greenhalgh. DeVaney said that, as an emergency response is unfolding, it is imperative to develop specific points of contact so as not to be a burden on the legal services agencies. Establish who needs to be in touch and how they need to be in touch. Answer those questions and then find the right mechanism that works. DeVaney had previously provided coordination and support for pro bono responses to Hurricane Harvey and Superstorm Sandy as the former chair of the New York City Bar Association Pro Bono and Legal Services Committee.
Attendees also participated in small group discussions. These informative sidebar conversations generated actionable ideas, such as creating a model disaster plan for the legal community, developing a national steering committee on emergencies, and forming a national volunteer database system. Participants also shared the items they most wanted to accomplish, including creating and mapping an inventory of existing templates and trainings, establishing communications networks, and building a communications toolkit.
A disaster or emergency can strike tomorrow. In a given year, there are approximately five emergencies that are large enough to trigger a cross-sectional response from FEMA, the ABA, and other organizations. Over the past two years, there have been 15 disasters big enough to trigger that response, and that number is expected to rise. PBI designed this session to address a crucial issue facing the world, our country, and the pro bono community. Attendees left the Conference armed with plenty to do differently when they returned to the office—ready to plan and start preparing for the next emergency. PBI will circulate the notes from this informative and productive session and continue to support meaningful discussions on the topic of pro bono and emergency response. In the meantime, remember the words of Tiela Chalmers —no matter what you do to prepare, it’s better than doing nothing.
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With support from Corporate Pro Bono (CPBO), Cargill, Incorporated.** and Koch Industries, Inc. are taking the lead to change Kansas’ rule barring non-locally licensed in-house counsel from providing pro bono legal services in the state. Attorneys from Cargill and Koch, working with Kansas Legal Services, recently appealed to the Kansas Board of Law Examiners to amend Rule 712. Currently, Rule 712 of the Rules Relating to the Admission of Attorneys limits an attorney who is not licensed in Kansas to provide legal services only to his or her company through a restricted license.
The appeal is seeking to authorize restricted-licensed in-house attorneys to perform pro bono services if those services are provided either in association with an approved legal services organization or under the supervision of a Kansas-licensed attorney. The board will consider the proposal and make a recommendation to the Kansas Supreme Court, which has the authority to amend the rule.
Four states – Illinois, New York, Virginia, and Wisconsin – have model practice rules that permit registered in-house counsel to provide pro bono legal services without unnecessary limitations protecting those clients and requiring lawyer competency. Kansas’ proposed rule is more restrictive than these jurisdictions, allowing registered in-house counsel to provide pro bono legal services only if “associated with or affiliated with” an approved legal services organization or under the supervision of a locally licensed attorney. Currently, four states employ the rule proposed in Kansas.
The Access to Justice Committee of the Kansas Bar Association has endorsed the proposed amendment. Westar Energy, Inc., CVR Energy, Inc., and Excel Industries are among the companies with legal departments interested in expanding their opportunities to engage in pro bono.
There is tremendous need in Kansas to provide civil legal aid for low-income people. In 2017, Kansas Legal Services reported receiving requests for legal aid substantially in excess of what they were capable of handling – roughly 10,000 requests went unfulfilled last year due to staffing shortfalls. Executive Director of Kansas Legal Services Marilyn Harp sees “huge opportunities” for an influx of 200 in-house counsel to improve the delivery of legal aid to low-income individuals and communities.
As Jennifer Adams, chief legal counsel for Koch and a Texas-licensed attorney stated, “At Koch, we have a hunger to do this type of work. We feel it’s very well aligned with companywide initiatives we have on criminal justice reform and removing the barriers standing in the way of success for those that are underserved in our society.”
Multijurisdictional practice rules pose a significant obstacle for many in-house attorneys participating in pro bono work. Do you know your state’s multijurisdictional practice rules? CPBO has an interactive map where you can find out the rules in your state, or across the border in the next jurisdiction, in a matter of minutes. Do you have a specific question about your state? Contact CPBO’s Director at email@example.com.
This week, Pro Bono Institute (PBI) celebrates the birthday of Esther F. Lardent, our late founder, and her lifelong work to achieve equal justice. Esther founded PBI in 1996 and led the organization for two decades, transforming the culture of pro bono in the legal profession.
Esther was known as the “Queen of Pro Bono” in part because of her innovative approaches to expand pro bono legal services. She inspired law firms and in-house law departments to motivate and encourage each other to do more pro bono, leveraging competition and public recognition as incentives. PBI Board Chair James W. Jones says her approach was genius: “It had never occurred to anybody to do those things.”
Esther’s spirit and passion live on at PBI. She is in our hearts and in the work that we do together every day. Join us in commemorating Esther’s birthday and help PBI continue her lifelong work with a gift to the EFL Fund. Share how you are working to improve access to justice using the hashtags #CelebrateEFL and #ProBonoProud.
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The Corporate Pro Bono Partner Award celebrates innovative and sustainable collaborations among in-house legal departments, law firms, and public interest organizations. PBI will recognize another one or two inspiring partnership at the 2018 Pro Bono Institute Annual Dinner on October 4 in New York City. The Partner Award has been presented annually since 2003, and we decided to check in with a couple of the previous Award winners to highlight some of the excellent initiatives that grew out of these partnerships.
One of the earliest recipients of the Award in 2006 was Microsoft Corporation** and Volunteer Advocates for Immigrant Justice (VAIJ), working together to provide pro bono representation to unaccompanied immigrant children, adults, and refugees in the Seattle area. That partnership evolved over time and led to the creation of Kids in Need of Defense (KIND). KIND provides pro bono legal representation for unaccompanied children facing immigration proceedings across the U.S. Since its inception, KIND had helped over 16,000 children, trained over 24,000 attorneys, and partnered with over 525 law firms, corporations, law schools and bar associations. KIND is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this year.
Verizon Communications Inc.** and DLA Piper*† received the Partner Award in 2011 for creating a an innovative partnership that bolsters pro bono services in support of returning veterans, survivors of domestic violence, youth experiencing education-related issues, and nonprofit organizations providing vital assistance to communities in need. The duo continues to collaborate on a number of different initiatives, including helping immigrant survivors of domestic violence apply for U visas—a type of visa set aside for victims of crimes. Most of the applications filed by the partners on behalf of their clients have been successful, resulting in a life-changing experience for the clients.
These are just a couple of the inspiring partnerships that CPBO and PBI have recognized through the years that have made an impact on communities in need. The 2018 CPBO Pro Bono Partner Award will be presented at the PBI Annual Dinner on October 4, 2018 in New York City. Nominate your successful pro bono partnership today. Deadline for submissions has been extended to April 27, 2018!
The Report on the 2017 Corporate Pro Bono Challenge ® Initiative: The Endurance of In-House Pro Bono will be released in May. This report summarizes the answers of respondents to the CPBO Challenge® survey in 2016. In the meantime, we wanted to share a little preview with you.
Among the responding Challenge signatories, 52 percent of U.S. lawyers participated in pro bono work in 2016. In 2016, 88 percent of respondents reported a partnership with an outside law firm.
Currently, there are 180 signatories to the Corporate Pro Bono Challenge ® statement representing companies from around the world. To learn how your legal department can join the Challenge initiative and become a leader in in-house pro bono, contact Corporate Pro Bono Project Assistant Virginia Lyon.
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The Law Firm Pro Bono Project is pleased to announce that Cravath, Swaine & Moore* has become a signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® initiative. Since it was founded in 1819, the firm has shown strong dedication to pro bono work by providing a wide range of legal services to those in need.
Law Firm Challenge signatories publically acknowledge their institutional, firm-wide commitment to provide three or five percent of their billable hours, or 60 or 100 hours per attorney annually, to pro bono legal services for low-income and disadvantaged individuals and families and nonprofit groups. We encourage firms to publicize their status as signatories and demonstrate their participation and pledge to pro bono service. Making a public commitment to the Law Firm Challenge heightens awareness of pro bono at the firm, increases attorney participation, engages firm leadership, and sets clear and shared goals for success. More than 130 firms have pledged their commitment to the Challenge and their dedication to pro bono and access to justice.
For firms that have not yet joined because of concerns that they cannot meet the Challenge goals, we encourage you to enroll anyway and use this proven tool to advance pro bono at your firm. There is no downside, as we do not publish disaggregated statistics, nor do we in any way identify individual firms as having met or not met their Challenge goal. Rather, we work closely with Challenge signatories to provide individual and confidential consultative services and support to help them improve their pro bono performance.
By joining the Law Firm Challenge, Cravath has institutionalized and publicly announced their firm-wide commitment to providing pro bono legal services to low-income and disadvantaged individuals and the organizations that serve them. To learn how your firm can join the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® initiative and become a leader in law firm pro bono, contact Law Firm Pro Bono Project Assistant Elysse DeRita.
If you are looking for a lunch and learn opportunity or simply want to listen to dynamic speakers discuss important topics in pro bono, register for one of our upcoming webinars! All past webinars, such as the popular Ferguson, Fines, and Fees program, are available on demand.
Here’s what’s coming soon:
- Time’s Up: Actions for Gender Equity
- Housing Matters
- Serving Our Seniors
- Protecting the First Amendment
- Domestic Violence
- When Helping Hurts: Sustaining Pro Bono Volunteers
- Transactional Pro Bono
- Partner Award