Cocktails & Conversation – Boston 2016

Esther F. Lardent Leadership in Pro Bono Series


Pro bono leaders from around Boston gathered at Goodwin Procter on June 9 for the first program in the recently launched Esther F. Lardent Leadership in Pro Bono Series. Hosted and moderated by Goodwin Procter Chairman Emeritus Regina Pisa, Cocktails & Conversation with Brackett Denniston and Ben Heineman engaged attendees in a thought-provoking discussion regarding the future of pro bono and access to justice.

Credited with revolutionizing legal practice, elevating the role of in-house counsel, and developing a culture that demands the highest ethical standards of lawyers and the companies they serve, Denniston and Heineman, each former general counsel of General Electric Company, have demonstrated superior commitments to justice and brought their unique perspectives. The conversation challenged attendees to be holistic and radical in bridging the justice gap.

Heineman noted that less than 1 percent of the $437 billion spent nationally on legal services is devoted to access to justice for the poor, and in New York, 90 percent of low-income individuals with legal needs go unrepresented. Denniston added that the World Justice Index ranks Russia higher than the U.S. on access to justice issues. The social divide in the U.S. and around the globe is growing larger; yet, business requires, as we all do, a stable society to thrive.

Denniston, Heineman, and Pisa spent the remainder of the program sharing and debating ideas and solutions to address social justice issues. Some of the proposals considered are currently being implemented, such as the Boston Bar Association’s Senior Partners for Justice program, which engages transitioning and retired lawyers in pro bono, and the recent partnership between Microsoft Corporation, Legal Services Corporation, and Pro Bono Net to create an online, national portal to access information and legal services.

The panelists emphasized that incremental advances are insufficient to solve persistent access to justice issues and that, as a profession, lawyers and legal staff need to view access to justice as an engineering problem that requires vision, data, technology, collective effort, and human capital.

The program was followed by an intimate gathering of senior leaders for the Inaugural Leadership Dinner benefitting the Esther F. Lardent Fund for Innovation in Pro Bono, generously hosted by Paul Dacier, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of EMC Corporation, and Jack Regan, Senior Counsel at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr.

The next program in the Series will take place on Wednesday, January 25, in Washington, D.C., and will feature Fannie Mae** President and Chief Executive Officer Tim Mayopoulos.

To learn more about the Esther F. Lardent Leadership in Pro Bono Series and learn about upcoming events, please visit PBI’s website.

PBI thanks its community partners Association of Corporate Counsel Northeast Chapter, Massachusetts LGBTQ Bar Association, and Volunteer Lawyers Project for their support of the event.