Wishing you a happy new year filled with new energy and new goals!
In this PBI 2022 Year in Review, we present highlights of the year in which we happily transitioned back into meeting in-person and a compilation of resources to help you strengthen your pro bono efforts.
We learned over the past few years that even through the challenges of a pandemic, civil unrest, economic uncertainty, and political conflict we can address the needs of the underserved in new, meaningful, and sustainable ways.
The decisions we make now will give this year momentum in our fight for access to justice for all. So we invite you to join us and be a part of this commitment! Attend the PBI Annual Conference and re-energize, network, and learn. Access our programming, including our podcasts, or read our blogs to find out what others are doing and how you can replicate their success.
Let’s start the year strong. Together we can make 2023 a banner year for access to justice!
President & CEO
Pro Bono Institute
In March, PBI held our first in-person conference in three years, and it felt great! We safely networked, listened and learned from thought-leaders, and celebrated the 2022 Laurie D. Zelon Pro Bono awardee and all of our pro bono efforts. Take a moment to view the highlight reel above!
to provide the important content and resources to those who could not join in person. After two prior virtual conferences during the pandemic, we’ve gotten great at convening virtually. Part II featured networking, and important sessions held for and by the pro bono community.
Sessions from the PBI 2022 Annual Conference offering CLE credit are online via the Thomson Reuters West LegalEdcenter® (WLEC).
PBI is committed to providing robust programming with the flexibility to meet our Conference attendees’ needs and interests. This year’s Conference includes foundational staples as well as interactive sessions and workshops covering a variety of current and emerging topics that impact law firms, in-house departments, and public interest organizations. And, an abundance of networking opportunities will help you connect with those who can help your program grow. Find out more of what’s in store at the PBI 2023 Annual Conference website. Register today: Early-bird deadline extended to January 20th! There’s still time to save!
PBI proudly presented the 2022 John H. Pickering Award to Debevoise & Plimpton in recognition of the firm’s outstanding institutional commitment to pro bono and the inspiring pro bono performance of its attorneys and staff. Debevoise, a member of PBI’s Law Firm Pro Bono Project® and a charter signatory to the PBI Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® initiative, has been a long-time leader in pro bono. The firm’s commitment to providing outstanding client service extends beyond its commercial work, to its neighborhoods, communities, and beyond. Pro bono work has been central to Debevoise’s culture since its founding in 1931. Watch their video below.
The CPBO Pro Bono Partner Award recognizes innovative pro bono collaborations of in-house legal departments with law firms and public interest organizations.
For more than six years, Chubb North America Legal and Compliance (Chubb) has partnered with Philadelphia VIP, a legal services provider that leverages pro bono legal services to ensure access to justice for low-income Philadelphians, to provide pro bono legal services in high-need areas. Watch their video below.
In February 2020, Dominion Energy and McGuireWoods launched a pro bono medical-legal partnership (MLP) with VCU Health to help meet the critical legal needs of low-income patients in the Richmond area by providing legal representation for matters that impact their health and well-being. Watch their video below.
April 28, 2022 marked the third annual Financial Institution Pro Bono Day (FIPBD), organized by Corporate Pro Bono (CPBO), the global in-house project of PBI, in partnership with dozens of legal departments in the finance and insurance industries. Pro bono leaders from legal departments, often in partnership with legal services organizations and major law firms, organized more than 65 pro bono opportunities and trainings.
More than 1100 in-house volunteers from financial institutions participated in pro bono events that addressed issues such as homelessness; transgender name changes; life planning documents for veterans and seniors; green card assistance for Cuban immigrants; naturalization and asylum applications; DACA renewals; Temporary Protected Status applications for refugees from Ukraine, Haiti, and Venezuela; ending torture of LGBTQ+ youth; uncontested divorce filings for low-income individuals; tax credit applications for senior citizens; expungement of criminal records; driver’s license restoration; children’s rights around the world; obtaining vital identification documents; intake clinics; brief advice hotlines; legal assistance for nonprofits or micro-entrepreneurs; and many more.
Volunteers served more than 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. Find out more and get inspiration for your project or program here.
Planning is underway for the next FIPBD: April 27, 2023! If your legal department in the financial or insurance industry would like to participate and you have not already informed us, please contact CPBO Director Alyssa Saunders at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If your law firm or legal services organization would like to participate and you have not been contacted by a financial institution, please notify PBI President & CEO Eve Runyon at email@example.com.
The first annual EmPOWERing Bono Day was held on November 16. This was a day of service for volunteer attorneys and legal staff from electric and gas companies, including Avangrid, Consolidated Edison, Dominion Energy, Duke Energy Corporation**, El Paso Electric, Entergy Corporation**, Exelon Corporation**, and PPL Corporation. More than 150 in-house volunteers participated in pro bono events, with volunteers serving more than 315 clients. Find out more and get inspiration here.
On September 29 and 30, 2022, PBI held its first Social Impact Summit, which focused on the “S” in ESG and the relationship between ESG, access to justice, and pro bono legal services. The Summit attracted an engaging group of attendees from law firms, corporate legal departments, public interest organizations and other legal community stakeholders, and featured a special address from Mark Kramer, Co-Founder and Senior Advisor at FSG and Senior Lecturer at Harvard Business School; a Town Hall format discussion comprised of about two-dozen thought leaders from law firms, legal departments, and academia, moderated by David Williams, Principal at Deloitte LLP; and several workshops tackling questions around the relationship of ESG and pro bono.
Many issues surrounding the interaction of ESG with pro bono could not be addressed at a single event like the Summit, particularly because the “S” in ESG is such an evolving area. PBI is committed to providing additional programming and resources to the legal community innovating around this new development. Here’s how:
In 2022, PBI’s Law Firm Pro Bono Project staff assisted numerous member firms innovate and enhance their pro bono programs. Such aid ranged across a wide variety of matters, tailored to the needs of the firm requesting help, including:
If your pro bono program could use help in any of these or other areas PBI’s staff is available to assist you. Please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Every Law Firm Pro Bono Project member is entitled to at least 15 hours of free consultation services each membership year and non-members may purchase consulting services on an as available basis. All Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge signatories qualify for free What Counts assistance, regardless of their member status.
In June 2022, the Law Firm Pro Bono Project® staff released the 2022 Report on the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge, describing the collective efforts in 2021 of the 135 law firms that have signed on to the Challenge. Challenge signatories have commited to several aspirational goals intended to promote meaningful pro bono programs and further important aspects of access to justice, such as: a) contributing 3 or 5 percent (or at a few firms, 60 or 100 hours per attorney) of their annual total client billable hours to pro bono activities as defined by the Challenge; b) spending a majority of their pro bono time on work that serves persons of limited means; and c) fighting racial justice and other systemic inequalities in our legal system.
The Report summarizes the Challenge signatories overall pro bono performance and examines how they are performing with respect to their goals including hours of service per attorney and percentage of attorney participation, as well as reviews other topics, such as charitable giving and overcoming the challenges of COVID-19.
Highlights of the 2022 Report include:
Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge signatories currently are receiving their annual survey questionnaires, with responses due by March 1, 2023. We are asking all of our signatories to complete the survey!
In June 2022, CPBO released the 2022 Corporate Pro Bono Challenge Report, reporting on pro bono participation by signatories in calendar year 2021. The 2022 CPBO Challenge Report: In-House Pro Bono examines the pro bono performance of 47 signatories that provided responses to the annual survey regarding their departments’ pro bono participation in 2021. It also examines the continuing impact of the coronavirus pandemic and shift to remote work on in-house pro bono engagement.
In 2021, an average of 48 percent of U.S. lawyers at responding departments participated in pro bono, a slight decline from 49 percent in 2020. The average pro bono participation rate for U.S. legal staff increased: an average of 32 percent of U.S. legal staff participated in pro bono in 2021 compared to 26 percent in 2020. The percentage of responding departments that met the aspirational goal of at least 50 percent pro bono participation by U.S. lawyers also ticked up slightly to 48 percent in 2021, compared to 44 percent in 2020.
However, among the subset of companies that responded to both the 2020 and 2021 surveys, the average participation rate for U.S. lawyers dropped from 50 percent to 45 percent, and the average participation rate for U.S. legal staff dropped from 30 percent to 25 percent.
Despite the challenges in in-house pro bono, there were notable positive trends. In-house pro bono expanded to more countries in 2021. Among responding companies with attorneys around the globe, 75 percent did some pro bono outside of the U.S., compared to 48 percent of companies in 2020.
Additionally, companies increased their focus on racial justice in 2021. The Challenge survey revealed that a greater percentage of responding departments engaged in racial justice pro bono in 2021 compared to 2020 (73 percent, up from 60 percent).
Challenge signatories will receive their surveys for calendar year 2022 in the first week of February 2023. We are asking all of our signatories to complete the survey!
In August 2022, CPBO published its biennial Benchmarking Report, the first Benchmarking Report to document the changes to in-house pro bono since the start of the global pandemic, and the renewed call for racial justice in 2020. This report summarizes the responses of 58 legal departments, providing unique insight into current trends in in-house pro bono.
The contents of the report are drawn from the Benchmarking Survey that CPBO invited CPBO Challenge signatories and other stakeholders with active pro bono programs to complete. These survey results assist CPBO and others with understanding the current state of in-house pro bono, including program administration, pro bono policies, malpractice insurance, partnerships, the types of pro bono matters handled, global pro bono, metrics, communications, budgets, remote pro bono, and racial justice.
Key highlights from the report include:
Check out the 2022 Benchmarking Report: An Overview of In-House Pro Bono to learn more.
Pro bono work is essential to help meet the vast civil legal needs of under-resourced populations. While the primary goal of most attorneys engaged in pro bono litigation is certainly not to secure personal monetary gain, fee-shifting statutory provisions allow for monetary remuneration in the form of attorney fee awards. Trends show that many large firms who prevail in their pro bono cases and secure attorney fee awards donate part or all of that award to a non-profit organization involved in impacting a particular area of public interest.
On August 16, 2022, the Pro Bono Legal Representation Expansion Amendment Act of 2022 went into effect in Washington, DC, permitting local government lawyers to participate in pro bono subject to certain restrictions. This legal change in our hometown inspired PBEye to do a deeper dive on government lawyer pro bono.
Immigration case backlogs leave individuals in a state of uncertainty for years, with ramifications for themselves, their families, and the U.S. immigration system at large. This country’s immigration dilemma has dire implications for asylum seekers, immigrants residing in the U.S., and immigrants abroad. There are many ways to get involved in immigration pro bono work. We’ve got some recent examples.
Many low- and modest-income parties litigate pro se because they cannot afford the high price of full-scale representation. Ghostwriting increases their access to justice by allowing them to receive some legal assistance and more effectively advocate their position during litigation.
You’ll find a review of the rules and ethics opinions on ghostwriting across all 50 states and D.C. in this blog.
For the sixth year in a row, legal department leaders are speaking out to support increased funding of the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), the largest funder of civil legal aid in the United States.
PBI and its global in-house project, CPBO, worked in partnership with the National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA) to invite General Counsel and Chief Legal Officers to sign a letter asking Congress to approve $700 million in funding for LSC for Fiscal Year 2023.
Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders account for 7.2 percent of the U.S. population, and are the fastest growing ethnic population in the U.S. In the last few years, there has been a significant increase in hate incidents targeting the Asian American community. PBI’s Corporate Pro Bono project recently joined Christina Yang, General Counsel and Pro Bono Director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles (Advancing Justice – LA), in conversation to learn more about the challenges facing the AAPI community and what pro bono lawyers can do.
Adequate housing is a basic human right, yet there are many barriers to housing in the United States. The PBEye has been following the development of laws and policies that create or ease barriers to housing, including the response to growing housing insecurity during the pandemic, the impact of the end of the national eviction moratorium, the decriminalization of homelessness through the establishment of homeless courts, and the movement to secure a right to counsel for tenants in housing court. In this latest article, we look at the impact of crime-free housing ordinances.
Join us for the Pro Bono Happy Hour Podcast! It’s a collection of lively conversations about pro bono news, infrastructure, and best practices. Listen on the PBI web site, or listen and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.
Since 2020, many law firms have incorporated new racial justice efforts into their pro bono programs. Learn how the establishment of these pro bono professional roles has incorporated racial justice and pro bono to contribute to the firm’s long-term racial justice commitment.
In honor of May Mental Health Awareness Month, PBI takes a look at what one firm, Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP, is doing to support health & wellness through pro bono.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 has given rise to many legal needs for those in Ukraine. Hear about the Lawyers for Good Government (L4GG) pro bono program offering assistance to those in Ukraine and how law firms and corporations can get involved.
For 14 years, Mexico Appleseed has been growing a network of law firms and corporate counsel engaging in pro bono in Mexico. Hear how Mexico Appleseed and DLA Piper*† have been working together to expand access to justice through pro bono in Mexico.
* denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® signatory
** denotes a Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory
† denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Project® member