Pro Bono Fairs Then and Now: Don’t Let Distance Interfere with Your Fair!

[vc_row row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” text_align=”left” background_animation=”none” css_animation=””][vc_column][vc_column_text]PBI’s Corporate Pro Bono project (CPBO) has worked with legal departments and Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) chapters over the years to host in-house pro bono fairs.  Pro bono fairs are a great opportunity to introduce in-house attorneys and legal department staff to local legal services organizations that offer pro bono opportunities.  In-house attorneys and staff interested in pro bono participate in presentations by local legal services organizations about pro bono opportunities, and networking with pro bono peers.  Historically, coffee and croissants were on the menu, too.

For example, in December 2019, CPBO partnered with Bank of America* to host an in-house pro bono fair for the DMV (District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia) region.  At the pro bono fair, held in Bank of America’s D.C. office, representatives from the following organizations participated to share information about their organizations and available pro bono opportunities: Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), Legal Counsel for the Elderly (LCE), Legal Services of Northern Virginia, and Wills for Heroes.  The event included a networking breakfast for local in-house pro bono leaders; a program featuring brief presentations by in-house volunteers who discussed their work, and by representatives of local legal services organizations; and then an opportunity for volunteers to connect with organization representatives at a networking fair.

Similarly, earlier last year, CPBO was one of many participating organizations in an In-House Pro Bono Breakfast & Fair coordinated by the ACC National Capital Region (NCR) chapter, held at the D.C. Bar’s offices.

However, as we all know, 2020 looks very different than 2019!  What’s a department to do?  One solution is to have a virtual pro bono fair.  (Attendees just have to provide their own caffeine and snacks.)

Inviting local organizations to call in to a pro bono fair or participate in a fair through video-conferencing can be an effective way to learn about pro bono service opportunities in a particular location or on particular issues.

Additionally, many organizations have already created the raw materials needed for a virtual fair. For example, the DC Virtual Pro Bono Fair is an online video directory of legal services providers in the Washington metropolitan area hosted by Pro Bono Net.  This allows organizations to reach a wide audience at any time convenient for the attendees.

Live virtual fairs are also an option! On September 23, 2020, CPBO, along with ACC NCR, D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center, and Washington Council of Lawyers (WCL), co-sponsored the In-House Pro Bono in the Time of Covid-19 virtual pro bono event. Pat McGlone, general counsel of Ullico*, and former DC bar president, moderated the virtual fair. Representatives from D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center, DC Volunteer Lawyers Project, Legal Counsel for the Elderly, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), and Maryland Legal Services each pitched their pro bono opportunities. Many also provided a volunteer’s perspective on key issues like training, mentoring, time commitment, and why the work is meaningful.

Attorneys from law firms, public interest organizations, and in-house counsel from around the region attended the one-hour Zoom webinar. The panel highlighted a wealth of manageable pro bono legal services opportunities for attorneys to provide during the COVID‑19 public health crisis. Transactional work, litigation, wills, voting rights, immigration, and brief advice clinical opportunities were among the types of opportunities shared.

In-House Pro Bono in the Time of COVID-19 proved to be successful and effective, even though the format was different than a traditional in-person pro bono fair. To learn more about this virtual pro bono fair, check out Washington Council of Lawyers’ blog recapping the webinar.

Don’t let social distancing interfere with your fair!  If your legal department needs help coordinating a virtual pro bono fair, please reach out to CPBO at

*Indicates Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® Signatory[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]