Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) has been a pro bono leader among Canadian companies. RBC’s success is in large part due to the support of Executive Vice President and General Counsel David Allgood.
Under his supervision, in 2007, RBC adopted a formal pro bono policy and its program has continued to flourish. With approximately 150 lawyers worldwide, the legal department has provided a wide variety of work for nonprofit organizations, including assistance with incorporation, governance, charitable tax status, employment and real estate issues, legal risk assessments, and the development of policies. In addition, RBC is involved in a variety of impactful legal pro bono projects, including those listed below.
Small Claims Court Duty Counsel Project
RBC lawyers partner with the law firms of Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP and McMillan to serve as duty counsel at the small claims court. As duty counsel, RBC lawyers assist eligible individuals in a range of ways, from providing advice and assessing the merits of their cases to advocating at brief appearances in small claims actions.
Volunteer Lawyer Services (VLS)
A group of RBC lawyers have volunteered to serve as presenters for the Volunteer Lawyer Service Seminar Series. The series covers a variety of legal topics of interest to nonprofit organizations and is provided to nonprofits as a valuable resource. Sample topics include employment law and policy development.
RBC lawyers have also provided advice and assistance to numerous nonprofits facing a range of legal issues. For example, two lawyers assisted an organization with amending their bylaws with respect to board members and yearly fees. The volunteers provided two sets of bylaws, and continue to assist the organization when necessary. Another lawyer assisted an organization apply for federal funding, which ultimately enabled the organization to expand its programs to local schools.
In 2010, RBC lawyers contributed more than 150 hours of pro bono and community service work through VLS projects.
Unaccompanied Minors Project
Last year, with the approval of the Federal Immigration and Refugee Board, members of RBC’s legal department began working with The Unaccompanied Minors Project to assist unaccompanied children in Canada. Often these children are sent to Canada by family members desperate to help the child escape compromising circumstances.
The Unaccompanied Minors Project is a partnership between McCarthy Tétrault LLP, Pro Bono Law Ontario, the Immigration and Refugee Board, and Peel Children’s Aid.
Pro Bono Law Ontario (PBLO) and Wellspring Cancer Support Foundation
PBLO and Wellspring have partnered to administer a program called Money Matters, which provides legal assistance to individuals living with cancer who have encountered employment and disability legal issues. One RBC legal department member attends the clinics to offer advice on human rights, disability insurance coverage, and other employment related topics to cancer survivors participating in the program.
Kids in Need of Defense (KIND)
KIND, like the Unaccompanied Minors Project, is an organization that assists unaccompanied immigrant children in need of legal counsel in the United States. Each year, KIND provides pro bono legal representation for the approximately 8,000 children who arrive in the United States separated from their families. Members of RBC’s legal department in New York have partnered with Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP* in order to provide representation to these children.
*denotes a Signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®