In 2016, the Arizona ACC Chapter launched the In-House Counsel Pro Bono Commission (IHCPBC) with the vision of creating a statewide structure to facilitate pro bono activities for in-house counsel by addressing impediments and providing organized opportunities. While the commission has only existed for a short time, it has already begun to transform the way in-house counsel pro bono activities operate in Arizona and have a positive impact on communities across the state.
| Goals of the IHCPBC:
The IHCPBC was the brainchild of the board of the Arizona ACC Chapter, which began working in 2015 to:
- build the structure of the commission;
- invite leaders from legal departments, organizations such as the Arizona Bar Foundation and Volunteer Lawyers Program, the Arizona Judiciary’s Access to Justice Commission, local law schools, and law firms to join the IHCPBC;
- eliminate obstacles to in-house counsel fully engaging in pro bono legal service; and
- create key working groups that pair an in-house counsel with a third-party leader to help drive each working group’s strategy.
Addressing Impediments to In-House Pro Bono
From its inception, the IHCPBC has engaged in a wide variety of work to encourage and streamline in-house counsel pro bono activities. The commission has worked to eliminate challenges that previously deterred in-house counsel, such as a lack of malpractice insurance, time restrictions, and a mismatch of skills. With regard to insurance, the IHCPBC worked with the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services to offer malpractice insurance for in-house counsel who provide pro bono within the umbrella of the IHCPBC. In addition, it has coordinated partnerships with agencies and law firms to provide any necessary training. Furthermore, the IHCPBC has worked to clarify and spread awareness of limited scope representation and licensing rules that apply to pro bono activities.
Pro Bono Assistance
By setting the framework for a significant amount of strategic collaboration among in-house counsel, agencies, key community leaders, and law firms, the IHCPBC has strengthened pro bono opportunities across Arizona. The commission is currently supporting a number of pro bono efforts to engage in-house volunteers to (i) assist veteran-based entrepreneurs in their startup businesses, (ii) provide free, essential legal documents to first responders and military personnel, (iii) staff a variety of clinics, and (iv) serve as mediators for selected small business litigants in the Arizona Commercial Court.
Access to Justice Initiatives
In addition to supporting in-house pro bono activities, the IHCPBC is focused on improving access to justice and increasing diversity in the legal profession, including arranging classroom visits with attorneys, hosting panels at libraries to provide the community with basic legal information, and developing online resources.
Successes So Far
Since its launch last year, the commission has:
- increased in-house pro bono participation by partnering with numerous organizations and law firms to engage in-house counsel to provide pro bono legal assistance to dozens of low income individuals, refugees, startups, and first responders;
- assisted hundreds of refugees in partnership with key service providers on a wide-range of matters, including legal documentation, landlord-tenant issues, education matters, basic legal issues, general assistance, and advising non-profits that help refugees;
- piloted and launched a mediation program with the Arizona Commercial Court, which entailed developing the program, testing it out, successfully resolving two cases, and fully rolling out the program to benefit litigants;
- hosted two CLE programs, one on implicit bias and the other on assisting refugees through the immigration process;
- advocated for amending AZ’s practice rules to empower in-house pro bono by eliminating the double certification requirement for in-house counsel licensed outside of Arizona and working in the state to provide greatly needed pro bono legal services;
- strongly supported the Arizona Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission;
- published a menu of pro bono activities suitable for in-house counsel, which acts as a guide for volunteers to engage in a way that personally resonates and benefits those in need; and
- engaged with the community by hosting multiple library panels for the public and fireside chats with veterans starting their own businesses, and visiting numerous classrooms.
CPBO congratulates the Arizona ACC Chapter, the IHCPBC, and all of their partners for their tremendous work and dedication to pro bono activities. For information on the how CPBO can help your chapter start or grow its pro bono program, click here.