In-house pro bono is not just for lawyers. A recent benchmarking survey published by CPBO found that nearly 92 percent of responding legal departments involve non-lawyers in pro bono work. Aside from managing the administration of pro bono work and serving on pro bono committees, paralegals and other staff play an important role in serving in-house pro bono clients.
Involving non-lawyers in pro bono activities increases the department’s capacity to provide legal services. Quite simply, more hands on deck means that more legal needs are met. Non-lawyers often possess unique skills useful in the provision of pro bono legal service. For example, some legal departments utilize contract negotiators and their excellent drafting skills for draw up wills and other legal documents. Others use non-lawyers as translators with clients who do not speak English.
As PBI President and CEO Esther Lardent points out in The Business Case for In-House Pro Bono, “Studies have consistently demonstrated the value of voluntarism in improving morale and productivity by reinforcing a sense of pride, common values and vision, and deepening personal relationships.” Pro bono presents an opportunity to expand connections among lawyers and non-lawyers alike, increasing inclusivity within a department. It allows members of the department who normally may have limited interaction the chance to work together toward a common goal – assisting those in need.
Exelon Corporation* serves as one example of a legal department that regularly involves non-lawyers in department-wide pro bono projects. In fact, Margarita Llamas-Odom, senior legal coordinator at Exelon, will receive an award for her role in Exelon’s pro bono program. She coordinates and manages Exelon’s participation in the Wills for Heroes program, which prepares vital estate planning documents for Chicagoland first responders. In addition to overseeing the administration of the program, she serves as a volunteer, providing direct services to clients. Her work has resulted in immediate, realizable benefits to members of the community, and the program she manages has fostered a lasting bond between the legal community and first responders in Chicago. The Wills for Heroes project is of personal importance to Llamas-Odom, as her husband is a policeman in the Chicago area. Congratulations to Margarita Llamas-Odom and all the other non-lawyer staff who help make in-house pro bono a reality!
How is your legal department using its non-lawyer staff to advance pro bono? Leave a comment and tell us about it!
*denotes Signatory to the Corporate Pro Bono ChallengeSM