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June 24, 2023 marked one year since the Supreme Court decided Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the decision that overruled the 1973 landmark case Roe v. Wade and eliminated the constitutional right to abortion. Since that decision, many pro bono volunteers have sought out opportunities to participate in reproductive rights pro bono.
On February 24, at the 2023 Pro Bono Institute (PBI) Annual Conference, we hosted a session on Post Roe Reproductive Rights & Pro Bono, led by Ronald Blum, Partner at Manatt*, Phelps & Phillips, LLP; John Freedman, Senior Pro Bono Counsel at Arnold & Porter*; Rabia Muqaddam, Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights; and Katie Niejadlik, Associate Director for Pro Bono Services at the Center for Reproductive Rights.
The session examined how law firms and other pro bono leaders can effectively engage to help address the crisis of judicial and legislative limits on abortion access, and its impact on poor and BIPOC communities. This program is available on West LegalEdcenter, and PBI Annual Conference attendees may contact PBI at firstname.lastname@example.org for a discount code to view the program at no charge.
Now, on the occasion of the Dobbs anniversary, Katie Niejadlik, Associate Director for Pro Bono Services at the Center for Reproductive Rights, shared updates and ways you can get involved. READ OUR LATEST BLOG
Thirteen of the 15 programs offer CLE credit in many jurisdictions. Paid registrants of the 2023 Annual Conference may access these recordings at no cost through October 31, 2023, using a promotion code previously emailed to them. Others may access the programs for a fee.
The 15 recordings available are:
You may access additional on-demand programs from PBI via WLEC. For more information, contact PBI at email@example.com.
Total Pro Bono Hours Are Up, But Key Metrics Show Some Weakness
The 2023 PBI Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® Report is out, revealing that in 2022 law firms were able to dedicate more hours to pro bono than in 2021, while nevertheless slipping in other key metrics used to measure the performance of law firm pro bono programs. The 2023 Challenge Report examines the pro bono engagement by firms that are signatories to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge initiative during the 2022 calendar year. Signatories to the Challenge have committed to contribute three or five percent of their annual billable hours (or, at a few firms, 60 or 100 hours per attorney) to pro bono activities, as defined by the Challenge, and report their performance to PBI Law Firm Pro Bono Project® staff each year.
Firms reported performing a total of 4,950,520 hours of pro bono work in 2022 – a more than 7 percent increase over the prior year, despite two fewer firms reporting in 2023 than the prior year.
Other positive key metrics included:
However, many critical measures of pro bono performance were down:
More Key Facts
We thank and congratulate the Challenge signatories whose commitment to pro bono is positively reflected in this Report, and we look forward to great things from them in the years to come in keeping with their commitment to addressing access to justice under the Challenge. Read the full Report here. Interested in your firm becoming a Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge signatory? FIND OUT HOW.
The Corporate Pro Bono (CPBO®) project of Pro Bono Institute (PBI) has released its 2023 report on the 2022 Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® data – 2023 CPBO Challenge Report: In-House Pro Bono Holding the Course.
The Corporate Pro Bono Challenge initiative is a voluntary commitment by legal department leaders to an aspirational goal that 50 percent of legal department employees, including attorneys and staff, will participate in pro bono annually.
The annual report analyzes pro bono participation of CPBO Challenge® signatories. This year, all the data points to one conclusion: pro bono participation by in-house legal departments remains steady. For companies that responded to our survey in consecutive years, the average lawyer participation rate in the U.S. was 47 percent in 2022 compared to 46 percent in 2021. The percentage of signatories who responded in both 2021 and 2022 that met or exceeded the goal of 50 percent participation in pro bono by attorneys remained consistent at 44 percent.
On average, the participation rate for 2022 for all survey respondents was 49 percent for U.S. lawyers, 33 percent for U.S. legal staff, and 28 percent for lawyers outside of the U.S. Additionally, for the first time, at the request of several legal departments, the CPBO project included a voluntary section of the survey in which there were several questions on metrics, including recorded pro bono hours.
The CPBO project also asked signatories to share their most impactful pro bono experiences in 2022. The responses highlighted the breadth of in-house pro bono and included projects from freeing the wrongfully convicted and preventing future wrongful convictions to drafting end-of-life planning documents to conducting research to help NGOs that serve vulnerable populations. PBI looks forward to highlighting this important work in more detail in the PBI Signatory Showcase.
“This year’s CPBO Challenge survey shows that in-house legal departments are holding the course and playing an important role in bridging the access to justice gap,” said PBI President and CEO Eve Runyon. “We are encouraged by the breadth of substantive work that in-house legal departments continue to take on, and we hope to see growth in 2023.”
“We are pleased to see that in-house pro bono participation remains strong and steady,” Alyssa Saunders, Director of the CPBO project, said. “By measuring and reporting on pro bono participation rates and hours of service, we can highlight the capacity of in-house counsel to assist in the delivery of pro bono legal services to the indigent, and to nonprofits and microenterprises in our communities. We thank the Chief Legal Officers and General Counsel who encourage and support efforts by their departments to increase access to justice through pro bono.”
An Overview of In-House Pro Bono in 2022
PBI has long followed movements to secure the right to counsel as this right marks essential progress in the struggle for access to justice for all. While we celebrated the 60th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright in March, which established the right to counsel in criminal proceedings, there is still no “civil Gideon” in civil and administrative proceedings, including immigration. Therefore, people who are asserting their right to stay in the U.S., including those who are detained, do not have a right to access an attorney to help them through the challenging removal proceedings process.
Many non-citizens face removal proceedings in immigration court without the counsel of a legal expert, despite the legal complexity of the case, and the weight of the repercussions. There are a variety of organizations that have researched and reported statistics on this issue, which paint a dire picture of the state of legal representation in removal proceedings. According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), as of the first quarter of FY2022, approximately 53 percent of all respondents with pending removal cases had representation, a decline from the first quarter of FY2018, when 67 percent of respondents had representation in removal proceedings. The CRS further found that the rate of success differed substantially for those who were represented: 44 percent of represented individuals were granted relief compared to only 15 percent of unrepresented individuals. Vera Institute of Justice (Vera) reported that as of September 2022, 800,000 unresolved pending immigration cases that had begun in FY2020 or later lacked representation. Find out more about this important issue in our blog.
Each year, the signatories to the PBI Law Firm Pro Bono Project Challenge® and Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® initiatives provide important pro bono services to underserved, disadvantaged, and other individuals or groups unable to secure the legal assistance needed to address critical problems. The PBI Signatory Showcase spotlights some of the exceptional work signatories have done to serve those in need.
CPBO spoke with Dora Ramos, Director of Legal Operations, and Jake Lipman, Director of Administrative Services for the Legal Department, about what made this experience a successful and replicable in-house pro bono project.
First, the full department, both lawyers and staff, participated in this project. For example, both Dora and Jake, along with other business professionals in the legal department, were able to work with attorneys to prepare their clients’ documents. Jake also helped coordinate the logistics of the project, matching volunteers’ skillsets with the clients’ needs. This was a great way to encourage lawyers and legal staff who may work together on day-to-day business to partner on pro bono. After the client meetings, paralegals and administrative assistants updated the clients’ documentation and sent it back to SSTB, to send the final products to the clients.
Second, the Chief Legal Officer of Advance, Michael Fricklas, participated in the project, setting the tone from the top and encouraging other members of the legal department to participate. Michael partnered with another colleague to help a company, selling beauty products with their statements on their website, and applied his expertise in intellectual property to serve the client.
Third, with many employees preferring to work remotely these days, this pro bono opportunity was a successful example of remote pro bono. The volunteers received documentation electronically from SSTB in advance of the clinics, and then met with their clients in virtual break-out groups. It was easy for the volunteers to review legal documents with their clients by sharing their screen. Jake shared, “The virtual environment is all I have ever known. As long as the lawyers are admitted in the right state, you can be wearing sweatpants and still help somebody.” Dora agreed that the pro bono volunteers were “very comfortable collaborating virtually” with their clients.
Fourth, the volunteers used their existing skillset to do pro bono. Some clients needed help with doing business online, or privacy statements, or legal help with their website. Because SSTB communicated the clients’ specific needs in beforehand, Advance could marry the volunteers’ skills to the vendors’ needs. This made the experience satisfying for the volunteers, who could provide the advice and counsel without additional training. Dora commented that for some corporate lawyers “the fear factor comes in” when they are asked to go to court for a pro bono matter, and “sometimes the lawyers feel a pro bono opportunity is not exactly in their wheelhouse.” By contrast, “with this particular engagement they knew in advance what was required of them and they felt supported.” This was a great opportunity to do pro bono with which they felt comfortable. Pro bono volunteers found it so meaningful to serve these clients that the department decided to purchase products from their pro bono clients’ small businesses as holiday gifts for employees. This further helped move the needle for the small business clients during the holiday season.
Advance continues to serve small business clients in 2023. Congratulations to Advance on their impactful pro bono work. Check out the pro bono work of more of our signatories here.
PBI 2023 ANNUAL DINNER
Monday, October 16, 2023
6:00 p.m. | Reception
7:00 p.m. | Dinner and Awards Presentation
1356 Broadway (at 36th Street) | New York
Christa A. D’Alimonte
Gregory B. Jordan
AWARDS TO BE PRESENTED
2023 John H. Pickering Award
honoring a law firm for its outstanding commitment to pro bono legal services
2023 CPBO Pro Bono Partner Award
honoring innovative pro bono collaborations of in-house legal departments with law firms and public interest organizations
For more information or to inquire about sponsorship opportunities, please contact:
Danny Reed, Director of Development
firstname.lastname@example.org | 202.729.6691
PBI 2024 ANNUAL CONFERENCE
March 7 – 8, 2024 | Renaissance Hotel | Washington, D.C.
* denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® signatory
** denotes a Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory
† denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Project® member