Since its inception in 2000, CPBO has helped countless in-house departments start and expand their pro bono programs. Despite the upward trend in in-house involvement, launching a brand-new pro bono program can present a daunting task for a legal department. With this in mind, CPBO reached out to Kristin Grimes, an attorney at Leidos, Inc.**, who recently spearheaded the successful launch of her department’s pro bono program, incorporating key elements CPBO has identified in its guide to getting started. We asked Kristin to share some insights and lessons learned about the process. You can read more about Leidos’ pro bono program here.
What first inspired you to start a pro bono program?
In August 2016, Leidos acquired Lockheed Martin’s Information Systems and Global Services, and with that, several Lockheed lawyers joined our team. At the very first combined legal department all-hands, Leidos’ general counsel at the time, Vince Maffeo, asked if anyone had questions. I asked what his thoughts were on starting a pro bono program now that we had a few more lawyers and legal staff. Vince, a strong supporter of pro bono work throughout his legal career, was excited about the idea and basically said, “Great idea – and since you asked the question – make it happen!”
Once there was a commitment to start a pro bono program, where did you start?
The Leidos pro bono program began with Vince’s pledge to the Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® initiative for our department to meet an aspirational goal of 50 percent pro bono participation. Our efforts throughout the year far exceeded this goal by having nearly everyone in our approximately 35-member legal department perform some pro bono service. To kick off the program, we invited CPBO to present an Ethics of In-House Pro Bono program to the department, which allowed us to learn more about the unique features of in-house pro bono from an ethics standpoint (and earn valuable CLE credits!).
After our pledge, the Legal and Corporate Responsibility departments donated $5,000 to the American Bar Association Military Pro Bono Project. Leidos is a dedicated supporter of the military and military families, and by enabling the Military Pro Bono Project to build out its initiatives, we were also creating ways for us to later provide pro bono services through those programs.
I then contacted some of our outside counsel firms to ask them about their pro bono efforts. Both Cooley*† and Wiley Rein*† were instrumental. Maureen Alger, who leads Cooley’s pro bono practice, helped us think through our program from inception and continued to help throughout the year. Additionally, Paul Khoury and Ted Howard at Wiley Rein welcomed Leidos volunteer attorneys at the D.C. Bar Consumer Law Resource Center (CLRC) housed in D.C. Superior Court. This was an easy way to acclimate our in-house lawyers to pro bono in a manner that was extremely impactful to the recipients while not requiring an overly extensive time commitment. Every attorney that volunteered walked out with the feeling of having made a difference. Leidos attorneys contributed over 30 hours and served 37 individuals at consumer law events.
What lessons learned can you share about launching a pro bono program?
Find one or two others in your company who are similarly passionate about pro bono to help. Even with the wonderful assistance of external organizations like CPBO and law firms, internal support is critical to sharing internal administrative tasks like logistics and emails, but most importantly, key to generating ideas that are a good fit for your company. We have a pro bono steering committee that meets regularly to create plans, make budget decisions, and assign tasks.
What have been your biggest challenges and rewards in starting a pro bono program?
The biggest challenge was convincing people that despite very busy schedules, they could participate. After some research, I was shocked to realize how many opportunities like this exist. The challenge then became picking the one that worked best for us.
The rewards of having a pro bono program are obvious, but two specifically stand out. One is the gratitude from the individuals we help. The other is the reaction and enthusiasm of our team after completing a pro bono service event. I don’t think people realized just how impactful it would be, or how good it would make them feel as individuals and as a team.
Leidos hosted a Clinic in a Box® event. How was the clinic helpful in launching your pro bono program?
When I wanted to have an event that was primarily Leidos-sponsored and beyond just a monetary donation, I started doing some research. The first and best source that appeared was Corporate Pro Bono. The resources there were so helpful and gave me many ideas. The easiest and most powerful one for us was the Clinic in a Box® program. Having an entire program laid out, step-by-step, with support from the CPBO team, made implementation so much easier. We co-hosted the clinic with United Way National Capital Region and Cooley. United Way managed client recruitment while Cooley provided lawyers to train the volunteers and prepared the training materials. The clinic focused on assisting D.C. metro-area children and human services-focused nonprofits with their social media policies, privacy policies, and non-disclosure agreements.
The process couldn’t have been easier, or more rewarding. Our legal team simply had to show up one day, most at their normal work location at Leidos headquarters, and dedicate about four hours to help the community nonprofits. In that time, they received all the training needed (including more CLE credits!) and provided useful legal advice and work product to a client, with no continuing obligations. Most of our volunteers enjoyed the experience so much that they chose to continue the relationship and provide continuing legal assistance on outstanding issues to their clients. Twenty-two members of the Leidos Legal department dedicated 88 hours on event day alone in addition to the generous time donated by CPBO, United Way, and Cooley.
How has your legal department responded to the pro bono program’s launch?
The entire Legal Department has been amazingly supportive of the pro bono program. Nearly every member of the department participated in our Clinic in a Box® event. Vince Maffeo has since retired, but our new general counsel, Jerry Howe, didn’t miss a beat in throwing his support behind the program. He has continued to promote the program both with his enthusiasm and budget.
What are your plans for the program moving forward?
We are continuing our partnership with Wiley Rein at the Consumer Law Resource Center. More Leidos attorneys are volunteering and spreading the word about how rewarding it is as well as the finite time commitment that makes it feasible. Additionally, we are planning an event with Cooley that focuses on serving veteran entrepreneurs, specifically disabled veterans. And of course, we look forward to continuing to work with CPBO and its knowledgeable and passionate team.
Finally, Leidos is a sponsor of the American Heart Association Lawyers Have Heart 10k Race, 5k Run, and Fun Walk and co-captain of the Association of Corporate Counsel team. While not traditional pro bono, our efforts supporting AHA through this event and others align our pro bono service with our charitable initiatives.
A special thank you to Kristin Grimes for her answers and time.
* denotes a Signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®
† denotes a Member of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project
** denotes a Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory