With its eighth annual Clinic in a Box® program this month, the “dream team” of the Association of Corporate Counsel Northeast Chapter (ACC-Northeast), Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo*†, and The Lawyers Clearinghouse, in partnership with Corporate Pro Bono (CPBO), have transformed transactional pro bono opportunities for in-house counsel in the Boston Area and made easier some common challenges of engaging corporate lawyers in pro bono.
For many years, the partnership hosted an annual Clinic in a Box® program – Legal Audit, CPBO’s licensed off-the-shelf model designed to provide in-house counsel the opportunity to advise nonprofit organizations or small businesses in five areas of law: governance, employment, intellectual property, real estate, and tax. As part of the clinic, volunteers conduct a “check-up” to assess the legal needs of the nonprofit or small business in each of these areas. The goals of the clinic are to introduce legal departments and ACC chapters to a replicable pro bono delivery model; encourage in-house attorneys to use their transactional legal skills to do pro bono work in their communities; leave in-house counsel with tools they can use to continue to provide pro bono services on their own; and foster closer ties among corporations, law firms, public interest groups, and their communities. “We’ve been able to host hundreds of in-house counsel over the past several years, many of whom come back every year to help,” said Susan Finegan, Chair of the Pro Bono Committee at Mintz Levin.
In 2014, after many years of hosting a Legal Audit clinic, the dream team decided to take its work to the next level. The co-hosts sought to address a common barrier many companies face in the evolution of transactional pro bono: keeping volunteers engaged, providing opportunities to a variety of volunteers with different skills and interests, and addressing the evolving needs of local nonprofit clients. To solve this challenge, the partnership worked with CPBO to create a new model of the clinic: Clinic in a Box®program – Select Topic, which focuses on a particular subject matter identified by the host organizations that volunteers receive training on and assist nonprofit clients in counseling and drafting a policy related to the topic in the course of the clinic. Past topics have included employment policies, bylaws, social media policies, privacy policies, and anti-harassment and nondiscrimination policies.
Thanks to the pioneering work of ACC-Northeast, Mintz Levin, and The Lawyers Clearinghouse, the Select Topic clinic has allowed in-house volunteers to do meaningful pro bono work by focusing in-depth on specific legal areas relevant to nonprofit organizations or small businesses in their communities. Just as in the Legal Audit model, during the first half of a Select Topic clinic, expert attorneys from a law firm provide training to the volunteers. Armed with the necessary information, volunteers then split into teams to meet with representatives of local nonprofit organizations or small businesses to review checklists regarding the policies, revise existing polices and draft new policies, depending upon the clients’ needs. The Select Topic model has created more opportunities for volunteers and has served a variety of needs of local nonprofits and small businesses.
In the Select Topic clinic held this month, Mintz Levin attorneys trained approximately 40 in-house lawyers and legal department professionals affiliated with ACC-Northeast about anti-harassment and nondiscrimination policies. During the second half of the clinic, volunteers met in small teams with 12 nonprofit clients to review and revise their policies. Clients left the clinic with a policy that they can immediately begin implementing in their organizations, and volunteers left in the holiday spirit, feeling a sense of accomplishment at helping nonprofit clients with much-needed legal services.
CPBO congratulates the dream team on another successful clinic and looks forward to working with them again in the years to come.
To learn more about CPBO’s Clinic in a Box® program, review our website and license options. To request a clinic in 2019, please submit this form. For more about ACC-Northeast’s pro bono program, review the In-House Pro Bono in Practice Profile here.
* denotes Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® signatory
† denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Project® member