The Pro Bono Wire

The Pro Bono Wire is PBI’s online newsletter. We encourage Law Firm, In-House, and Public Interest pro bono leaders as well as other interested stakeholders to sign up to receive this valuable resource. Members of the Press are also encouraged to receive The Wire. To subscribe to The Wire, click here.

Read archived issues of The Wire here.

May 2024

PBI 2024 Annual Conference On-Demand

On-demand sessions recorded at the PBI 2024 Annual Conference are available online via West LegalEdcenter. CLE credit is available in many jurisdictions for 14 of the 15 programs. Paid registrants of the 2024 Annual Conference may access these recordings at no cost through October 31, 2024, using a promotion code provided by email. Others may access the programs for a fee.

The available recordings are:

AI and Pro Bono Topics

Evergreen and Trending Issues in Pro Bono and Access to Justice

Additional on-demand programs from PBI can be accessed via WLEC. For more information, contact PBI at

A few parting words...

Following a long and distinguished career, Erik J.A. Swenson, Director, Law Firm Pro Bono Project, has retired. Erik joined PBI in March 2020, after 35+ years in partner, counsel, and associate roles at four law firms ranging in size from 100 to 4,000 lawyers. In his capacity at PBI, Erik was pivotal in many initiatives. He shared this letter with staff.

You are probably familiar with a short version of  “The Star Thrower” from The Unexpected Universe by Loren Eisely.  In the short version, a lone person on the beach after a storm tosses stranded starfish back into the ocean. They do it knowing that although they cannot save all the starfish, they can make all the difference to the ones that they do save. Pro Bono is like that, and while I led my Big Law career, I felt good knowing that I took the time to help the occasional starfish.

The published story ( actually has two parts and is somewhat darker and deeper. We learn that the narrator of the story has been inspired by seeing the lone starfish thrower on the beach and has joined in to save even more starfish. In doing so, they realize that this doubled effort still will not save more than a small portion of the starfish, but that, not only did it make all the difference to the starfish that were saved, it also restored the souls of both the narrator and the original starfish thrower. Pro bono is like that, too.

Although that is where The Star Thrower ends, that is not where my journey ended, nor is it the end of pro bono. Following my more than 35 years as a Big Law energy lawyer, I had the good fortune to join Pro Bono Institute, as the Director of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project® initiative. My four plus years at Pro Bono Institute has opened my eyes to another unwritten chapter to the access to justice version of the starfish thrower saga. Although the beach is far vaster and the storms far more frequent and devastating than imagined, there are also more star throwers than you can imagine, the effort to save those in need is becoming more organized, and there is a realization that we must do more than return starfish to the sea – we must work to calm the storms that strand so many on the beach. 

Pro Bono Institute is one of a growing number of organizations continuing to support the pro bono analog to starfish throwing, while working toward innovation that can calm the storms driving systemic injustices that create the need for ever more pro bono. It has been a real privilege to have a part in an organization with such an important role in improving access to justice and with the amazing PBI staff and numerous dedicated law firm and corporate legal department pro bono professionals, as well as selfless public interest organization leaders, toward these ends. I have learned something of value from each of these people. Striving to help others has certainly helped me. 

While I dare not try to mention all the people that have made my life better during my tenure at PBI, I would be remiss not to mention two of the many. First, Eve Runyon was kind enough to hire me and inspired me on a daily basis. She has picked up the mantle of PBI’s founder Esther Lardent with poise, optimism, and tireless energy and fearlessly steered the organization through challenging conditions.  It is no small feat to successfully fill our founder’s shoes. Second, Nihad Mansour, who, although she started at PBI before me and had more public interest experience than I from the get go, accepted my stepping into the Law Firm Pro Bono Project® Director position not just with grace, but enthusiasm. She has a formidable set of strengths that more than compensated for my weaknesses. One of her superpowers is the ability to directly absorb sunshine and reradiate it as needed to brighten everyone’s day. No one could ask for a better teammate.

I leave PBI at a time where there is a clear vision of what urgently needs to be done and with a cadre of staffers that I have faith will help move the needle in the right direction.  As I turn the page to chapter four, I hope to continue to work for the greater good and trust that each of you, in your own way, will do so too. As the saying goes, this is more than a moment; it’s a movement. 

My best to you all,



April 18, 2024, marked the fifth annual Financial Institution Pro Bono Day (FIPBD), led 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, in partnership with legal services organizations and law firms, organized 81 opportunities for pro bono service and training.

FIPBD increases access to justice through events providing legal services to low-income, marginalized communities. FIPBD encourages and promotes in-house pro bono engagement and collaboration across the finance and insurance industries and with legal services organizations and law firms. Several companies also planned community service events as part of FIPBD.

Approximately 950 in-house attorneys and legal staff volunteered in pro bono events that addressed issues such as: voting rights restoration, expungement and record sealing for formerly incarcerated individuals; divorce filings for survivors of domestic violence; affirmative asylum applications for LGBTQIA+ individuals; citizenship applications for legal permanent residents; benefits eligibility evaluations for veterans; assistance with the educational needs of individuals with disabilities; eviction diversion and other housing assistance for low-income clients; estate planning for low-income clients; legal support for nonprofit organizations, small businesses, and micro-entrepreneurs; nonpartisan voter protection opportunities; environmental justice research projects; a compendium on human trafficking laws across the globe; and many more. Additionally, more than 400 law firm volunteers worked alongside their in-house partners at these events, totaling more than 1,350 volunteers across this year’s events.

Collectively, FIPBD volunteers served more than 1,200 clients, and many more clients will receive pro bono services as the result of pro bono training held as part of FIPBD. At several events, volunteers developed novel resources for a nonprofit or NGO that will have far reaching impact and serve many additional beneficiaries.

This year, 48 legal departments participated in FIPBD. Companies organizing FIPBD 2024 events included: American Express, Apple Bank**, Ares Management, Bank of America Corporation**, Bank OZK, Barclays Bank**, Bloomberg L.P.**, BMO Financial Group**, Brighthouse Financial, Capital One Financial Corporation**, Citigroup, Inc. **, Citizens, Discover**, Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae)**, Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac)**, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company**, The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc.**, Raymond James Financial, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company**, TD Bank, Truist, U.S. Bancorp**, The Vanguard Group, Inc.**, Wells Fargo, and Zurich North America**. Additional legal departments that volunteered at FIPBD events organized by others included: Accenture plc**, AIG, Airbnb, Allied Irish Banks, DCC plc, Docusign, eBay, Fordham University, HSBC, KPMG**, LRQA, Permanent TSB Group Holdings, Shell plc, State Street, Stripe, Inc., Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp., The Bank of New York Mellon Corporation**, The Coca-Cola Company**, ViiV Healthcare, Visa, Stetson University College of Law, and Western Union. We thank these legal departments and the many legal services organizations and law firms they partnered with to organize these pro bono service and training opportunities.

CPBO thanks everyone who worked so hard to make #FIPBD2024 a success.

Start planning for FIPBD2025!
Mark your calendars – Thursday, April 24, 2025!


Showcasing Challenge Signatories

Koch Capabilities, LLC** and Barnes & Thornburg LLP* Interview

The Force Multiplier Effect: Combining Partnership, Mentorship, Technology and More to Serve Nonprofits and Impact Community

In February 2020, weeks before the pandemic began to ripple across the U.S., Koch Industries welcomed representatives from their panel of preferred law firms to Wichita. Koch General Counsel, Ray Geoffroy felt strongly that Koch had a tremendous opportunity to accomplish so much good for society by leveraging their combined capabilities (internal lawyers and external panel firm lawyers) on a larger scale. He challenged the law firms to partner with Koch’s Pro Bono Initiative and become a “force multiplier” to Koch’s efforts. Further, he set the expectation that the firms’ commitment to its Pro Bono Initiative would be considered a factor in awarding work.

A few months after the Wichita summit, Koch panel firm Barnes & Thornburg committed 10,000 hours of pro bono work to its Initiative – across all subject matter areas, all offices, and all attorneys around the U.S. – to support the nearly 320 non-profit community organizations backed by Stand Together, a philanthropic community founded by Koch Capabilities Chairman and CEO, Charles Koch. These organizations, or Catalysts are at the forefront of delivering powerful, meaningful, and lasting positive change in their communities. Catalysts are focused in one or more of the following areas: addiction, mental health and trauma; courageous collaboration (addressing racial and other issues that divide communities); criminal justice (including in-prison, reentry and second chances); economic mobility (including financial empowerment, entrepreneurship and workforce development); health care; homelessness; and youth and education.

For Barnes & Thornburg, the initiative gives its attorneys the opportunity to use their skills to help these Catalysts further pursue these missions, while also mentoring its next generation of leaders. Barnes & Thornburg endeavors to pair an associate on each matter with a partner who possesses subject matter expertise, giving the associate an opportunity to learn and grow in the practice.

We spoke with Koch Capabilities Associate General Counsel, Public Policy and Pro Bono, Melissa Brown, and Koch Chief Counsel, Commercial & Pro Bono, Matt Ellis, along with Barnes & Thornburg Partners Jason Bernstein and Mark Wallin, for this Signatory Showcase blog.

Find out more about this exciting project, its impact on clients in need, and some key takeaways for your own “force multipliers.” READ MORE

The Power of Law Firms and Law Schools Working Together on Pro Bono

Strong and growing interest in pro bono at law schools suggests that there has never been a better time for collaboration between law firms and law schools. For example, 82 students at the University of Virginia School of Law’s 2023 graduating class completed the pro bono hours challenge of at least 75 hours of service. This law student interest in pro bono is more than just a flash in the pan; interest has been peaking over several years now. The University of Chicago Law School’s class of 2022 broke the school’s record by collectively recording 15,932 hours of pro bono legal work.

Implemented properly, law firms can expect law student participation to boost their pro bono programs, while providing an alternative or enhanced avenue for recruiting top law students for associate positions after graduation.

The PBI Report on the 2022 Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® Statistics shows that law firms are already engaging with law students through summer associate programs and are enhancing those programs by involving their summer hires in pro bono. However, pro bono outside of summer positions offers additional opportunities for interaction with prospective hires that cannot be achieved through summer programs. For example, teaming up with law students during the school year can help firms engage a larger number of law students and can provide an extended period for firms and law students to ensure that they are a good fit for one another, all while strengthening the firm’s pro bono impact and improving access to justice. Find out more about the power of firms and law schools working together in one of our latest blogs. READ MORE

Legal Department Leaders Unite

Supporting Funding for Civil Justice

For the eighth year running, legal department leaders have once again rallied to support the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), the largest funder of civil legal aid in the United States. PBI and its global in-house project, CPBO, along with the National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA), put out a call to action to General Counsel and Chief Legal Officers, inviting them to sign a letter of support for increasing LSC’s Fiscal Year 2025 funding.

The GCs and CLOs from 147 corporations signed the letter, calling on Congress to strengthen its investment in equal justice by increasing funding for LSC in the FY2025 appropriations. The letter was delivered to Congress on May 14, 2024.

In the letter, the GCs and CLOs noted that access to civil legal aid creates stability that is critical to the strength of the American workforce and the success of the American economy. Therefore, supporting access to justice is a business imperative.

A 2022 LSC report found that low-income Americans do not receive any or enough legal help for 92% of their civil legal problems, and roughly half of the requests for assistance received by LSC grantees are turned away, due to a lack of resources. Despite the tremendous need for these legal services, LSC is underfunded and often targeted for budget cuts despite strong bipartisan support. Following similar advocacy efforts last year, Congress and the President ultimately approved a new spending package that increased LSC funding for FY2024.

For FY2025, LSC has requested $1.797 billion in funding, which is $216 million more than the FY2024 budget request. LSC determined this is the minimum funding required in light of the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the recent increase in child poverty, record high debt collection and consumer finance complaints, and the rising eviction rate.

PBI and its CPBO project are proud to support this effort to secure funding for LSC. We thank the GCs and CLOs for demonstrating their commitment to legal aid, access to justice, and pro bono legal services. For more information, please contact CPBO at

Read the full letter HERE.

AND AT THE LOCAL LEVEL – In addition to these efforts to increase civil legal aid funding for the LSC, many are working to expand civil legal aid funding and access to justice at the state level. Find out what’s happening on the ground in several states in our blog, “Balancing the Scales: State Efforts for Local Legal Aid Funding.” It’s a roundup of information about the challenges and notable successes at the local level. Join pro bono leaders in national and local efforts to expand funding for much-needed civil legal aid. READ MORE

Honoring Innovation in Pro Bono

Please consider donating to PBI’s Annual Spring Campaign, which commemorates the birthday of PBI’s late founder Esther F. Lardent and honors the hallmark of her work, namely, innovative approaches to expand pro bono and access to justice. PBI’s recent work to improve and innovate pro bono have included exploring the use of AI to increase efficiencies in pro bono and access to justice, benchmarking staffing of pro bono programs at major law firms, organizing industry pro bono days to engage more legal department volunteers, and launching the Corporate Pro Bono Community Group to promote collaboration and share best practices among in-house pro bono leaders.  Your donation will help PBI continue to explore these important issues, drive innovation, foster collaboration, and ultimately, make justice more accessible for those who need it most. Join us in our mission to create a more just and equitable society.

Share Your Great Ideas

Submit Your Ideas for the PBI 2025 Annual Conference
To keep the PBI Annual Conference fresh, informative, and thought-provoking, we welcome your proposals for concurrent and plenary sessions. We especially encourage you to submit ideas for workshops, small group discussions, and other interactive programs that will facilitate engaging in-person programming. By presenting a session at the Annual Conference, you can elevate your voice and demonstrate your expertise on this national stage!
Please submit your ideas for the PBI 2025 Conference by July 26.
There are two ways to participate:
Session Proposals: Would you like to organize or present a session at the PBI Annual Conference? Submit a session proposal using our Call for Proposals Form. If you have more than one session proposal idea, please submit them using multiple forms. By submitting a session proposal, you are agreeing to organize and/or present a session if selected, and to create original materials (such as a slide deck) needed to secure CLE credit for your session.
Topic & Speaker Ideas: If you don’t have a specific session proposal but have ideas for topics and/or speakers that you would like to see at our Conference, please submit ideas using our Topic & Speaker Form.
If you have any questions about submitting a proposal or other input for the PBI 2025 Annual Conference, please contact us at

Data Please

Surveying Law Firm Pro Bono

Everybody knows accurate surveys are a great source of information on the current state of pro bono, a good planning tool, and the best way to assess trends. We need your data – and there’s still time!

Law Firm Staffing Survey

This survey was the subject of a well-attended and well-received session at the PBI Annual Conference in March. Fifty-one firms responded in time to be included in the initial analysis, but to make the analysis as meaningful as possible additional firm participation is needed. To that end, both Challenge signatory and Law Firm Pro Bono Project member firms who have not yet submitted responses recently received new links to the on-line Staffing Survey that extends the time to participate through May 31.

If you have not already completed this survey and did not receive an updated link, please contact PBI’s Project Assistant, Genevieve Timm at or 202.729.6698.

Thank you for contributing to the legal community’s understanding of law firm efforts to improve pro bono and access to justice.

Save the Dates

Wednesday, October 9, 2024
Gotham Hall | New York
February 26-28, 2025 
The Westin Washington, D.C., Downtown

Watch your email for more details–coming soon!

* denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® signatory
** denotes a Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory
† denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Project® member

Pro Bono Institute®, PBI®, Law Firm Pro Bono Project®and CPBO® are registered trademarks of Pro Bono Institute