Pro Bono Institute honors significant pro bono partnership projects through the Corporate Pro Bono (CPBO) Pro Bono Partner Awards. Honorees have a demonstrated and sustained impact addressing a critical legal need in a vulnerable community through pro bono legal work. CPBO, a project of PBI, created the CPBO Pro Bono Partner Award to recognize innovative pro bono collaborations of in-house legal departments with law firms and public interest organizations.
Amazon in partnership with K&L Gates and Mary’s Place
for their holistic approach to providing pro bono legal services at Mary’s Place shelters for their guests
Seattle faces severe challenges related to homelessness. Amazon is addressing some of these challenges in its hometown through its unique, long-term partnership with Mary’s Place, a Seattle-based 501(c)(3) organization that provides safe, inclusive shelters and services to support women, children, and families on their journey out of homelessness. Amazon’s Legal Department, too, has adopted Mary’s Place as a focus of its pro bono efforts.
Amazon and K&L Gates LLP attorneys not only provide legal advice to the Mary’s Place organization and staff on issues of employment, tax, real estate, and corporate governance, but also in 2018, the Amazon Justice League began holding legal clinics to provide advice and guidance to guests at Mary’s Place shelters. These clinics were provided in partnership with attorneys from the Seattle office of K&L Gates. Volunteer lawyers provide advice on myriad civil legal issues, including landlord/tenant disputes and evictions, financial issues and bankruptcy, expungement of criminal histories, personal injury, wills and probate, traffic violations, identity theft, restraining orders, employment issues, and medical issues.
Marty Hartman, the Executive Director of Mary’s Place, says: “We are so grateful to the amazing Amazon pro bono legal team for the life-changing gift of their time and expertise that they give so generously. For many of our guests, resolving legal issues can open doors to housing; for others, it lifts a burden that makes the journey seem possible.”
Amazon partnered with K&L Gates and the King County Bar Association to assemble resources that would help support the clinics, with K&L Gates attorneys creating a robust resource manual with guidance on the most common legal issues, so that volunteers have the information needed to advise clients during the clinic. Additionally, Amazon and K&L Gates developed training sessions, which are mandatory before volunteers may participate in a clinic.
During 2018 and 2019, clinics were held regularly at the Mary’s Place women’s day center in downtown Seattle. Each legal clinic served between 20 and 30 guests, with 20–25 members of the Amazon Legal Department participating. In the last year, clinics have been held at other Mary’s Place shelters in North Seattle and Burien to serve a broader population. The legal clinics have now assisted more than 250 Mary’s Place guests, and Amazonians have donated more than 1,200 hours of pro bono services there.
In 2020, the new Mary’s Place family shelter opened on Amazon’s campus, within one of Amazon’s corporate office buildings, and pro bono volunteers from Amazon’s Legal Departments began providing regular office hours and follow-up appointments on location. The new shelter includes a legal office for pro bono lawyers to meet with Mary’s Place guests. The permanent establishment of this clinic in the new Mary’s Place shelter on Amazon’s campus will enable Amazon attorneys and legal professionals to continue contributing to the community in a meaningful way for years to come.
Amazon and K&L Gates have continued their work during COVID-19 to address challenges for Mary’s Place guests brought on by the pandemic. Amazon helped to arrange for technology, including laptops, on-site at Mary’s Place facilities in order to enable the clinic to operate virtually. K&L Gates developed an interactive resource guide and training on COVID-specific state and local laws and resources for shelter staff and volunteer attorneys to assist Mary’s Place guests.
About the CPBO Pro Bono Partner Award
Corporate Pro Bono (CPBO), a project of Pro Bono Institute, created the CPBO Pro Bono Partner Award to recognize innovative pro bono collaborations of in-house legal departments with law firms and public interest organizations. Pro bono partnerships that include at least one in-house legal department with one or more law firms and/or public interest organizations are eligible. The CPBO Advisory Board selects the award recipients.
The award honors legal departments and the organizations with which they partner in the provision of legal services to those in need. The award recipients are departments, law firms, and public interest organizations that have demonstrated an impact in their community through their partnership project, shown substantial involvement in the project by in-house lawyers, made tangible steps toward sustaining the relationship among the partners, developed innovative substantive or structural approaches in support of the partnership’s effort, and addressed a critical legal need or assisted a particularly vulnerable community or target population.
Over the years, the impact and innovation of the projects supported by the award recipients have been tremendously important both in the projects’ ability to address the legal needs of the communities being served and in the role the partnerships have played in supporting and furthering pro bono work, especially within the in-house community. Through these partnerships, legal departments, law firms, and public interest organizations have devised programs that contribute to the legal profession’s efforts to close the justice gap and that create strong legacies of effective pro bono service.