The third annual Financial Institution Pro Bono Day (FIPBD) was the biggest yet and provided pro bono services across the globe! FIPBD was organized by Corporate Pro Bono (CPBO®), a project of Pro Bono Institute® (PBI), to spotlight the severe gap in legal services for underserved individuals and promote in-house pro bono collaboration in partnership with law firms and legal services organizations.
On the day of service, April 28, 2022, more than 1100 in-house volunteers from 35 financial institutions participated. The FIPBD partners organized both virtual and in-person pro bono events that addressed diverse issues ranging from homelessness to transgender name changes, to life planning for veterans, to green card assistance for domestic violence survivors, to advancing racial justice and serving communities of color, and many more. The volunteers served over 1000 clients, with an expectation that many more clients will receive services as a result of trainings that were held as part of FIPBD. At several events, volunteers developed new resources for a nonprofit or NGO that will use the resources to serve additional beneficiaries.
FIPBD was originally conceived as an opportunity for legal departments in a common industry to collaborate on pro bono, and the goal is to include institutions throughout the United States and globally. This year, we saw incredible volunteer engagement at two global multi-institution events – one in-person and one remote. We spoke with the event organizers about their keys to successful FIPBD planning.
In London, the In-House Pro Bono Group and Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP organized an all-day, in-person event in which nearly 100 in-house volunteers from Goldman Sachs, Citigroup**, Credit Suisse, Barclays Bank PLC**, BNY Mellon, JPMorgan Chase, and Bank of America** participated.
The event was organized by Deborah Smith of Goldman Sachs, and Robert Powell of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP. The participating organizations are involved in the “In-House Pro Bono Group” in the UK, where Deborah serves as founder and member of the steering committee. Deborah thought that FIPBD was a perfect way to bring the group together for the first time in-person since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. She recalled reaching out to Rob about the idea, saying, “I called Rob and the next thing I know he had sent over a massive spreadsheet of things we could do and said that he booked the law society for us, and it took off from there.”
The morning sessions supported Dress for Success Greater London for women who are long-term unemployed and have faced difficult circumstances. The aim was to equip the women with the skills and confidence to re-enter the workplace and secure meaningful employment. The afternoon sessions supported UnLtd. Social Enterprise Support for innovative social entrepreneurs to meet, connect and network with lawyers and professionals to seek guidance and grow their enterprise through an onsite legal clinic addressing “topic tasters” like governance, trading subsidiaries, managing volunteers. Both morning and afternoon sessions were extremely successful, supporting over 60 clients in total.
The day was not only beneficial for the clients served, but also for the participating volunteers. Deborah and Rob implemented strategies to increase volunteer engagement and reduce barriers to participation. They hosted the event at the historic Reading Room at the Law Society in the heart of London. The location was easily accessible, while the history and beauty of the Reading Room provided extra incentive for volunteers to attend. The event was also broken up into one hour time blocks, which made the time-commitment less daunting to busy attorneys. Volunteers were allowed to stay for as many time blocks as their schedule allowed. Deborah said there were several attorneys who signed up to volunteer for a morning session and were enjoying their experience so much that they ended up staying on all day!
Volunteers were given several networking opportunities throughout the day, which is another great way to increase attendance. Goldman and Weil Gotshal provided lunch for both in-house volunteers and clients, and networking drinks for the volunteers at the conclusion of the day. This can give the event a more festive feel and is a nice thank-you to volunteers for participating. Phillip Springford, a volunteer from Goldman Sachs expressed his appreciation for the opportunity to participate in the day of service, saying, “It was a fantastic opportunity for people interested in pro bono to get involved with. Rob and Deborah organized it very well, which made a huge difference.”
In a similar vein, Julia Gilfillan at Accenture** and Erica Blau at American International Group, Inc. (AIG)** partnered with Baker McKenzie* to provide multiple virtual opportunities that engaged volunteers around the globe: three Justice-in-Action sprints garnered 190 volunteers from Accenture**, AIG**, American Express, Aon Corporation**, and JPMorgan Chase.
The three opportunities focused on human rights issues, a topic that AIG and Accenture in-house volunteers have historically been interested in and were offered in time zones accommodating both North America/Latin America and EMEA volunteers. The accessibility of these projects was intentional; Julia noted that AIG and Accenture wanted to make it feasible to volunteer in any location.
Additionally, both felt it was important to focus on a “the more, the merrier” mentality for the events. This meant sharing the events early and often with more than just AIG and Accenture’s internal departments. Julia and Erica focused on leveraging relationships with previous pro bono partners and contacts with whom they had worked before in other contexts and sending multiple reminders about participating both via email and at planning meetings.
When creating teams for the projects, Erica and Julia paired in-house volunteers across institutions. This allowed for networking opportunities through the volunteering itself and points to a broader trend of the importance of partnering with outside institutions. Erica noted that in-house legal departments are in a unique position to team up and provide meaningful and impactful pro bono work. There is power in numbers!
Both groups are already looking forward to making the #FIPBD2023 event bigger and better, with a hopeful eye on even more in-person opportunities! We are, too. Save the date for Thursday, April 27, 2023. If you would like assistance planning your FIPBD events, please reach out to CPBO at email@example.com.
*denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® signatory
**denotes a Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory