Pledging to Do More In-House Pro Bono

Challenge, accepted! Pledge, taken! Target, aimed!

Legal department leaders around the globe have more opportunities than ever before to publicly commit to engaging their legal teams in pro bono. In April 2024, the UK In House Pro Bono Pledge joined the global Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® initiative and the Australian National Pro Bono Target as a way for GCs and CLOs to demonstrate their commitment to pro bono.  These initiatives share a common purpose of motivating in-house pro bono participation.

The Corporate Pro Bono (CPBO) project of Pro Bono Institute (PBI) launched the Corporate Pro Bono Challenge initiative, in 2006 to enable legal departments to identify, benchmark, and communicate their support for pro bono service. The CPBO Challenge® initiative was created at the encouragement of Chief Legal Officers. It asks GCs and CLOs to make a voluntary commitment to encourage and promote pro bono legal service by legal departments, their lawyers, and staff, and to use their best efforts to encourage at least 50% of their legal staff to participate in pro bono service annually. The goals of the Challenge are aspirational, and do not include a minimum hours requirement. CPBO Challenge signatories also agree to encourage their outside counsel to support pro bono by becoming signatories to the PBI Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® initiative. As part of their commitment, CPBO Challenge signatories receive support from CPBO, including information, guidance, and tailored assistance to enhance existing pro bono programs or launch new programs. The Challenge has 194 signatories currently.

The Australian Pro Bono Centre opened their National Pro Bono Target to in-house legal teams in July 2020, expanding upon a Target that was previously aimed at lawyers in private practice. The Target asks in-house legal teams to pledge to use their best efforts to achieve a voluntary target of an average of a minimum of 20 hours of pro bono legal services each year per in-house lawyer. The Target also encourages law firms to subscribe to and use their best efforts to achieve the National Pro Bono Target for law firms. The Target currently has 12 in-house legal teams as signatories.

The newest initiative to promote in-house pro bono recently launched in the UK, when the In House Pro Bono Group, GC100 and National Pro Bono Centre created the In House Pro Bono Pledge as a way for companies to publicly demonstrate their commitment to pro bono. Signatories commit to encourage 25% of the UK-based lawyers to undertake a minimum of one hour of pro bono work in the first year rising to 35% in the second year and 50% in the third year.  Signatories also commit to asking their key external law firms and chambers to provide details of their pro bono activities and to be clear about their support for pro bono.  In just a few short weeks, there are already 17 signatories to the Pledge.

All three initiatives are a great way for GCs and CLOs to publicly demonstrate to their legal departments, companies, and communities that they support pro bono. Significantly, these initiatives all motivate action by setting aspirational goals to increase pro bono engagement.

Whether it is a “Challenge,” “Pledge,” or “Target,” initiatives to motivate in-house legal teams to encourage and engage in legal pro bono are most welcome! Legal department leaders should consider signing on to each of the initiatives that are applicable to the jurisdictions in which their departments have legal staff. To learn more, please contact