CPBO Spotlight On: Caterpillar Inc.

Caterpillar established a pro bono program in 2006, under the leadership of Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer Jim Buda, who recognized the benefits of developing a pro bono program, both for the legal division and for the communities in which the company operates.  In five short years, the legal division, which consists of more than 300 attorneys and staff in 26 offices worldwide, has provided thousands of hours of pro bono legal services to those in need.  In addition, a Charter Signatory to the Corporate Pro Bono ChallengeSM, the Caterpillar legal division has met the Challenge’s 50 percent participation goal.  Its success is due not only to management support, but a strong committee infrastructure, including a designated coordinator, a position currently held by paralegal Celeste Poole.

Jim Buda, Vice President, General Counsel, and Secretary, Caterpillar Inc.

The mission of Caterpillar’s pro bono committee is:

[To] facilitate the provision of pro bono services by Caterpillar Legal Services Division attorneys and staff, for organizations and individuals in need, to improve the communities in which we work and live.

The committee carries out this mission through a number of impactful pro bono efforts. 

Pro Bono Clinics
Lawyers and legal staff at Caterpillar’s corporate headquarters in Peoria, Ill., staff numerous clinics each year—both in Peoria and also in Chicago.  One such clinic served immigrants, helping victims of domestic violence obtain U-Visas.  Other clinics have provided legal assistance to disabled and elderly people and first responders by preparing powers of attorney and living wills.  The legal division typically partners with an outside firm and a legal services provider to host these clinics.

Individual Matters and Representation
Lawyers and staff regularly take on a wide range of individual matters including wills, divorce, orders of protection, adoption, 401(c)(3) organization, intellectual property matters, and employment issues.  A majority of these matters are referred to the legal division by a local legal services provider.

Global Pro Bono
Caterpillar has had tremendous success in undertaking global pro bono projects.  Of particular note is a recent case in which Caterpillar lawyers and staff teamed up with Accenture plc**, Merck & Co., Inc.**, Baker & McKenzie* and PILnet (formerly the Public Interest Law Institute) to create a virtually unprecedented and innovative inter-company, cross-border approach to meaningfully impact humanitarian issues. The resulting program united nearly 70 lawyers in 11 countries, all working to help draft model legislation to protect Nepalese women working in “cabin and dance restaurants” from socio-economic and sexual exploitation.  The project was generated by PILnet’s Global Pro Bono Clearinghouse, which disseminates pro bono opportunities for law firm and in-house lawyers to support the work of public interest lawyers around the world.  Based on a public interest case, the Supreme Court of Nepal issued a decision decrying the practices and directing the enactment of legislation to address the issue.  CPBO honored this partnership with its 2010 Pro Bono Partner Award.

Caterpillar is a true leader in in-house pro bono.  In addition to providing pro bono legal services, it has created an outreach team to provide advice and support to other legal departments with regard to their pro bono efforts.  Sharing the experiences of the Caterpillar legal division so that others may learn from them and be more effective in their efforts creates a multiplier effect and results in even more people being assisted.

*denotes a Signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®
**denotes a Signatory to the Corporate Pro Bono ChallengeSM