Bay Area Co-op: A Cutting-Edge Collaboration

Innovation in the San Francisco Bay Area extends well beyond developing the latest technology, as evidenced by the Bay Area Corporate Pro Bono Co-op (Co-op).  Comprised of in-house legal departments, with support from DLA Piper LLP (US)*†, the Co-op is dedicated to enabling and supporting in-house pro bono and its member companies.  Since August 2009, the Co-op has provided volunteer opportunities for its members at more than 380 clinic events dedicated to preventing homelessness. Additionally, the Co-op has recently expanded its breadth to include providing legal assistance to Bay Area domestic violence victims.

Conceived by Jeff Hyman of Apple Inc., Bruce Ives of Hewlett-Packard Company**, and Hillary Weingast of Symantec Corporation**, the Co-op began because of an understanding that although many Bay Area in-house counsel were interested in providing pro bono services, individually they did not have the resources or support to create effective change.  Thus, the three set about creating a joint initiative between legal departments and erecting a shared infrastructure that enabled individual volunteers to more easily and effectively pool their resources.  Today, the Co-op is composed of five legal service providers, one law firm, and more than five companies. These organizations have brought together more than 100 lawyers and 70 staff to participate in Co-op training sessions, clinics, and individual client cases.

The Co-op’s unique and innovative partnership model brings together attorneys and legal staff from sometimes competing companies to use their unique skills to assist those in need. As Shirley Gibson of Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County, directing attorney for the San Mateo clinics, told a Co-op volunteer, “You should be very proud of this miraculous settlement.  The client would have had no shot at keeping this housing without the hard work and determined advocacy [you] put into the case. . .the client’s two-year-old and five-year old probably think you are Santa Claus.”  Reflecting on a past case, a volunteer stated, “It gave me a lot of pleasure and satisfaction to use my skills to make a big, personal difference in someone’s life.”

We at The PBEye are happy to see pro bono collaborations on the rise.  Be sure to stay tuned as CPBO showcases other great partnerships.

Do you know of any collaborative pro bono efforts?  If so, please share them below.

* denotes a Signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®
† denotes a Member of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project
** denotes a Signatory to the Corporate Pro Bono ChallengeSM

Hat tip to PBI intern Ben Gloger for his help on this post.