Here at Corporate Pro Bono, we see in-house departments select pro bono projects for many different reasons. Some choose pro bono engagements related to their company’s business priorities. Others choose projects that intersect with their companies’ Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) goals. And some legal departments develop pro bono initiatives that support both the corporate mission and its CSR objectives.
Capital One®** developed the Identity Theft Clinic, a signature pro bono project, that not only augments the company’s business of delivering financial products and services to customers, but also supports its Future Edge® initiative that helps people at all stages of their lives take better control of their personal finances to make the best decisions for their future. Notably, the Clinic features a collaboration between the company and the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), whose participants help design the content and share expertise during the Clinic.
We invited Jamie Specter, in-house counsel at Capital One who developed and leads the Clinic, to tell us more about the evolution of this pro bono project.
Capital One Legal Department’s
Identity Theft Clinic
The request was simple – “Create a pro bono clinic around identity theft.” The inspiration to create such a program was clear – Identity theft is among the top complaints reported to the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel complaint database. (Source: www.ftc.gov) These consumers include Capital One customers and the communities we serve.
With these goals in mind and with Capital One Legal Department’s support, I developed the Identity Theft Clinic to provide both legal services and education to students at Year Up®. The Year Up model is designed to close the Opportunity Divide by providing young adults, ages 18 to 24 of low-to-moderate income, with the skills, experience, and support that will empower them to reach their potential through professional careers and higher education. (Source: https://www.yearup.org/about-us/vision-mission-values/) Year Up’s mission and the fact that their students are among a population that is high risk for identity theft made them an attractive candidate to benefit from the Clinic’s services.
Four years later, the Identity Theft Clinic has evolved into one of Capital One Legal’s annual pro bono events.
The Pro Bono Legal Services
On the day of the clinic, Capital One’s Legal volunteers step away from their computers, put a block on their calendars, and dedicate their full attention to the students at Year Up. Through in-person training, interactive hypotheticals, and quality resources provided by the FTC, the Year Up students receive essential knowledge and tools to address identity theft when it occurs and reduce the likelihood from it happening in the first place.
Some issues addressed at the clinic include:
What is identity theft? How does it occur? If it occurs, what are my rights with the credit bureaus and creditors? How do I report identity theft and how can I limit financial loss? What supporting documentation is necessary?
There are also opportunities for volunteers to put their legal skills to work by providing pro bono services to students who have been victims of identity theft or have questions about their own identity security. Every year, we have numerous students share their personal stories during the clinic and five to ten students will take advantage of time reserved afterward for a chance to speak with pro bono volunteers. Individual rooms are available for one-on-one conversations where students receive targeted advice and resources regarding their rights and how to manage their situation. Familial identity theft is a common theme among many of these individual sessions. The clinic does not currently offer long-term representations.
|Engaged Community Organization||Year Up, one of Capital One’s community partners, is a one-year, nationally recognized, intensive training program that provides young adults (ages 18-24 without college degrees) with six months of business and soft skills training followed by six months in a corporate internship. Year Up hosts the clinic each year at their Arlington, Virginia location.
|Devoted Partners||We have developed a close partnership – and I personally would include the word “friendship” here – with the FTC participants who bring both expertise and passion for the topic.
|Passionate Volunteers||Over the course of two sessions that last a combined three hours, volunteers interact with 130 of Year Up’s students. Volunteers can use their legal skills to improve access to justice by providing pro bono services to students who need help resolving legal problems affecting their financial futures.With some Capital One Legal associates traveling up to two hours, the clinic also allows volunteers to spend quality time with their colleagues that they may not see every day or work with at all.
|Dedicated Executive Sponsorship That Encourages Volunteerism||We are fortunate to have:1. Three well-respected leaders from our Regulatory Advisory Legal team with subject matter expertise that sponsor* the clinic; and
2. A legal department that encourages associates to volunteer.
*Sponsorship includes promoting and attending the event.
|Corporate Culture That Prioritizes Community Outreach||The goals behind the Identity Theft Clinic support Capital One’s Future Edge initiative. This initiative focuses on helping people in our communities “gain the skills necessary to succeed in the digital age.”To learn more about Capital One’s Future Edge Initiative, click here.
All participants are encouraged to share feedback after the clinic. The comments are always overwhelmingly positive with most of the feedback centered around the valuable interactions with the engaged Year Up students. We also request recommendations to improve next year’s program.
Being open to candid feedback and continually evolving the clinic is incredibly important. While the overall agenda depicted in the above picture has stayed constant each year, we conclude each clinic equipped with feedback that will make the next year even better than the one before. I am incredibly proud of the Identity Theft Clinic – the collaborations we have built, the impact we have had on hundreds of students, the support of over one-hundred Capital One and FTC volunteers – and I look forward to continuing the clinic’s success in the years to come.
To learn more about this clinic, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
** denotes a Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory