With care and planning, partnerships between and among legal departments, law firms, and legal service providers can be a useful way to pool resources, increase capacity, and share ideas to help a greater number of people in need. The PBEye loves to hear about successful pro bono partnerships, and we are excited to share their stories with you in a series of blogs in the coming months.
The northern Virginia office of ExxonMobil Corporation and the McLean, Va., office of Hunton & Williams LLP* formed a partnership in 2009, tapping their combined resources to serve the northern Virginia community. As its first project, the partnership launched and co-staffed an elder law clinic with Legal Services of Northern Virginia (LSNV). During the day-long clinic, attorneys meet with clients in the morning, draft living wills and other estate planning documents while clients eat lunch provided by ExxonMobil, and meet with clients in the afternoon to review and execute the documents. The time-limited commitment proves convenient and manageable for both clients and volunteer attorneys. Since the clinic’s inception, attorneys have provided pro bono legal assistance to 55 needy clients.
Building on the success of the elder law clinic, ExxonMobil and Hunton & Williams expanded their joint pro bono efforts to include staffing an “Attorney of the Day” program at two local domestic relations courts. Through this program, volunteers represent victims of domestic violence to obtain permanent protective orders. Typically each attorney is able to represent four or more clients during his or her day-long pro bono commitment. In total, ExxonMobil and Hunton & Williams attorneys and staff have served 26 clients through the “Attorney for the Day” program.
The support of partnership has enabled ExxonMobil’s legal department to establish the necessary infrastructure to create and sustain a pro bono program. For example, Hunton & Williams and LSNV provided training for 70 ExxonMobil attorneys, paralegals, and other staff members on estate planning and preparing wills, powers of attorney, and advance medical directives. In addition, LSNV provided all volunteers training for the “Attorney of the Day” program, organized a mock trial, and posted training materials for each attorney, including a video of the mock trial, and form templates on an intranet site for the partnership.
ExxonMobil and Hunton & Williams also worked together to help bring about a rule change in Virginia that removed restrictions that had prevented in-house counsel from doing pro bono work.
We look forward to hearing more from the Hunton & Williams and ExxonMobil partnership. And be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the next blog article highlighting a successful pro bono partnership.
*denotes Signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®