CPBO Spotlight On: AT&T Inc.

When the legal department at AT&T formed its pro bono program in 2009, it sought to provide opportunities for its attorneys throughout the United States.  In 2010, the department restructured its program and developed regional pro bono committees to better support its attorneys in different areas around the nation. To ensure a unified program, the department also formed an executive committee to oversee the regional programs efforts.  With support from Senior Executive Vice President and General Counsel Wayne Watts, the program has undertaken many pro bono projects across the country.

In 2010, nearly 100 AT&T lawyers were involved in more than 20 “pre-approved” regional or national pro bono programs and logged participation in more than 200 unique pro bono activities.

AT&T Midwest Region Pro Bono Activities
Center for Disability & Elder Law
More than 20 AT&T attorneys participated in the Center for Disability & Elder Law’s (CDEL) Senior Center Initiative in Chicago, which sends volunteer attorneys into low-income senior communities to assist seniors with completing powers of attorney for property and health care and living wills.

The Midwest Legal Team has a longstanding relationship with CDEL.  AT&T legal staff has participated in CDEL’s Senior Tax Opportunity Program (STOP).  This unique program uses a phone bank approach to call seniors who are in danger of losing their homes because they have delinquent tax bills.

AT&T Northeast Region Pro Bono Activities
Volunteer Lawyers for Justice
Several AT&T attorneys provide legal counsel and limited scope representation to self-represented debtors regarding consumer-related legal matters for the Newark Legal Advice and Resource Clinic for Consumers, a first-of-its kind clinic in New Jersey set up by the Volunteer Lawyers for Justice program.

AT&T Southeast Region Pro Bono Activities
Legal Clinic for Nonprofits Serving Atlanta Area
AT&T attorneys teamed with lawyers from the Atlanta office of the firm Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP to conduct a half-day legal clinic for several nonprofits serving the Atlanta area.  The event was co-sponsored and organized through the Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta (PBPA).  The clinic was designed to match nonprofits with pressing legal needs with PBPA volunteers.

Pro Bono Wills and Healthcare Directive Project
The Southeast Regional Pro Bono Committee worked with the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation and Troutman Sanders LLP to provide AT&T lawyers the opportunity to participate in “Wills on Wheels”, an ongoing Wills and Healthcare Directive Project.  The Wills Project is designed to provide pro bono legal assistance in drafting wills, healthcare directives, and other estate planning documents for low income and elderly clients, as well as emergency personnel.

AT&T Southwest Region Pro Bono Activities
Southern Methodist University (SMU) Law School Small Business Clinic
Several AT&T attorneys work with SMU law students to help track and advise students’ progress in assisting individuals to start their own businesses.

In Dallas, AT&T attorneys have been involved in multiple pro bono projects including the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program (DVAP), which offers assistance on family law and other issues; the Landlord Tenant Program; and the Legal Lines Program.  Dallas AT&T attorneys also coordinated with DVAP to put on the first in-house pro bono CLE program for company attorneys in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Austin AT&T attorneys have been active in the Volunteer Legal Services program, under which AT&T attorneys have taken on numerous pro bono cases on a variety of legal issues.

San Antonio AT&T attorneys have sponsored and participated in the Community Justice Program’s (CJP) Wills Clinic, preparing wills, health directives, and other life-planning documents for those who cannot afford legal counsel.  San Antonio attorneys have also volunteered at a number of the general CJP clinics, where they have provided legal representation in a variety of family, landlord/tenant, consumer, and other non-contested matters.  Finally, these attorneys have offered pro bono representation to active and retired military personnel through their participation in the State Bar of Texas’ Veterans Legal Clinic at the Audie Murphy Veteran’s Hospital in San Antonio.

AT&T attorneys in Houston have been volunteering at monthly clinics held at the VA Hospital in Houston, where they provide advice and counsel to veterans on a variety of family, probate, social security, criminal, landlord/tenant, and consumer matters.

AT&T West Region Pro Bono Activities
Kids In Need of Defense (KIND)
AT&T attorneys in Los Angeles have teamed up with the law firm Paul Hastings to obtain training for participation in the KIND program, which represents unaccompanied minors in immigration courts.  These minors may be teens fleeing abusive parents in their home country or young children kidnapped in their home country and brought to the United States to work in sweatshops or other substandard conditions.  The minors may try to reunite with parents that already are in the U.S. or may have been separated or even orphaned while coming to this country to flee poverty, natural disasters, or political persecution.  These minors do not have a right to counsel in immigration court, so AT&T lawyers help the minors throughout the legal process.

San Francisco Bar Association Volunteer Legal Services Program
AT&T attorneys in San Francisco have become involved with the Volunteer Legal Services Program (VLSP).  Through this program, AT&T attorneys have the opportunity to volunteer on several pro bono projects, including the Housing Negotiation Project (HNP), the Community Organization Representation Project (CORP), the Aids Legal Referral Panel (ALRP), and Legal Services for Children (LSC).

HNP is VLSP’s limited-scope project for eviction defense.  Through this project, volunteer attorneys represent low-income individuals and families being evicted during their mandatory settlement conferences.   CORP assists nonprofit community-based organizations throughout northern California in a range of transactional business law matters.  ALRP provides free and low-cost legal services on such matters as housing, employment, insurance, confidentiality, family law, credit, government benefits or public accommodations matters to people with HIV/AIDS in the San Francisco Bay Area.  LSC provides legal services in regard to guardianship, dependency, school discipline, immigration, emancipation and family law matters.

Denver Small Claims Courts Clinic
AT&T attorneys in Denver participate in a small claims and collections clinic, teaching indigent and other individuals how to gather information and legal references necessary in order to prepare and bring their own cases in small claims or county courts.  These clinics are taught in conjunction with the state county courts and the Denver Bar Association.  The AT&T attorney-instructors also counsel individuals on how to behave in court and what to expect in the process.

AT&T Excellence in Pro Bono Legal Services Award
AT&T is committed to promoting pro bono work in its communities through its scholarship and awards program.  In January 2010, AT&T presented its first AT&T Excellence in Pro Bono Legal Services Award to Kimbel Ward, a second-year student at St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio.  The AT&T Legal Department developed this program to:

  • encourage law students to develop a strong commitment to pro bono service;
  • provide legal and administrative support to an existing pro bono program (the San Antonio Bar Association’s Community Justice Program) by funding a law student to serve as an intern; and
  • strategically invest AT&T’s pro bono budget dollars in a way that aids an established pro bono program and promotes long-term commitment to pro bono service among law students.
  • AT&T has created similar scholarship and award programs through partnerships with Rutgers Law School in New Jersey, and Emory Law School in Georgia.