Top 10 Things to Consider For Your Pro Bono Partnership

We all learn at an early age how to work together . . . and pro bono is no different!  A successful pro bono partnership between a law firm and a corporate legal department is an important evolution of both pro bono programs.  Done properly and building on existing strengths, a partnership can generate more resources for pro bono and can foster a valuable relationship.  Here is a top ten list of questions to consider before embarking on a pro bono partnership:

1. Is your firm or legal department ready for a partnership?  Do you have a sustained and effective pro bono program with strong infrastructure?
2. Do you have the right motivation and reasons for partnering?
3. Are the key people on board? (i.e., the relationship partner(s), the general counsel,  and other leaders or management?)
4. Have you identified a likely partner?  Is there an existing commercial relationship, a legal department or law firm with a demonstrated interest in pro bono, a legal department at a company with a strong CSR program, and/or a geographical fit?
5. Do you have the right project?  Is it responsive to critical legal needs, does it fit the firm and legal department’s interests and skills?
6. Where are you getting the work?  Is the infrastructure in place to ensure a reasonable flow of properly vetted pro bono matters?
7. Can you clearly define meaningful and proportionate roles for both the firm and the legal department?
8. Are you prepared to make a significant commitment of time (including start-up time)?
9. Are you willing to be candid about what is working and not working and establish regular and meaningful communication?
10. Are you prepared to make mid-course corrections based on input from all parties?