Chief legal officers have been at the forefront of the incredible growth of in-house pro bono. Many have publicly emphasized the importance of engaging in pro bono not just for their own legal departments but for every lawyer.
At the 2014 PBI Annual Dinner, Randy Milch, former general counsel and current executive vice president and strategic policy advisor, Verizon Communications Inc.**, shared why pro bono service is important and spoke about the tremendous need for attorneys to volunteer and become evangelists for pro legal services. In his remarks, Milch, acknowledging that more than 80 percent of the legal needs of low-income individuals go unmet, stated, “We have to become beacons, each one of us, about the importance of providing legal assistance to the poor in our country.” He continued, “There are no issues … that should prevent you from participating and prevent you from encouraging all of those around you from participating.”
For Bruce Kuhlik, former executive vice president and general counsel at Merck & Co., Inc.**, there are many reasons to do pro bono, including fulfilling one’s professional responsibility, but it boils down to “it’s just the right thing to do.” Indeed, for many attorneys, general counsel included, the key motivations for providing pro bono services are their desire to use their unique skills as an attorney to help those who need them the most.
At the 2015 PBI Annual Conference, Bill Casazza, executive vice president and general counsel, Law & Regulatory Affairs, Aetna, Inc.** (recipient of the 2015 Laurie D. Zelon Award), shared his perspective on how his legal department’s pro bono program has maintained its commitment to pro bono for more than 30 years. Casazza cites three reasons. One, the foundation of Aetna’s success is that it receives substantial support from the top, including from the general counsel and CEO. Aetna’s program also is not just limited to litigation; it leverages the unique skills of a wide variety of the lawyers and other professionals in its department to offer opportunities involving, among other things, transactional work and legal advice clinics. In addition, the department not just allows, but encourages its lawyers and staff to take the time to engage in pro bono matters and also ensures that these pro bono matters are treated the same as any other matter undertaken on behalf of the corporation. As a result, Casazza states that pro bono is “part of the expectation and part of the fabric of the Aetna law department.”
For more information about in-house pro bono, please contact CPBO Director Eve Runyon.
**denotes a Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory