Don’t Be Intimidated: Selecting In-House Pro Bono Projects

CheckAt this year’s PBI Annual Conference, in-house counsel and other legal department pro bono leaders broke into groups to discuss a variety of topics relevant to the continued development of in-house pro bono.  One group, led by Adam Brink of The Clorox Company**, focused its discussion on the selection of pro bono projects including how departments starting, expanding, or refocusing their pro bono efforts can select the right projects.

Getting Started
When creating an in-house pro bono program, there are a series of steps to take prior to selecting specific projects.  Before any significant projects can be started, departments must first consider and develop the program’s goals, policies, and structure while paying attention to the interests of the participating attorneys and the needs of the community.  Some of the difficulty with choosing projects stems from unanswered organizational questions that impact the direction and goals of the program.  Once settled, project selection should align with the established goals and structure.

Finite and Longer Term Engagements
Legal department pro bono programs, particularly new programs, face unique challenges when approaching pro bono projects.  Choosing projects that alleviate concerns of unpredictable schedules or geography often means identifying pro bono matters that are desktop capable or finite such as hotlines and clinics.  As volunteers gain experience and programs mature, departments may decide to incorporate longer term projects including policy advocacy and litigation.

Building on Existing Infrastructure
To engage volunteers in a meaningful and comfortable way, pro bono programs should offer training and materials for volunteers.  To receive training, a number of legal departments partner with law firms or legal service organization.  In fact, many of the projects The PBEye spotlights are supported by partnerships between a legal department and one of these entities.

Selecting a pro bono project can seem intimidating but The PBEye wants you to be aware of the variety of opportunities that can meet your department’s needs.  Let us know if your department has any strategies to share or success stories.  To discuss possible projects your legal department can undertake, contact CPBO Director Eve Runyon.

Looking forward to participating in a conversation like this one?  If so, make sure to mark March 5-7 on your calendar for the 2014 PBI Annual Conference.

** denotes a Signatory to the Corporate Pro Bono ChallengeSM