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April/May 2018

Kansas Makes Strides to Change Pro Bono Practice Rule

With support from Corporate Pro Bono (CPBO), Cargill, Incorporated.** and Koch Industries, Inc. are taking the lead to change Kansas’ rule barring non-locally licensed in-house counsel from providing pro bono legal services in the state. Attorneys from Cargill and Koch, working with Kansas Legal Services, recently appealed to the Kansas Board of Law Examiners to amend Rule 712. Currently, Rule 712 of the Rules Relating to the Admission of Attorneys limits an attorney who is not licensed in Kansas to provide legal services only to his or her company through a restricted license.

The appeal is seeking to authorize restricted-licensed in-house attorneys to perform pro bono services if those services are provided either in association with an approved legal services organization or under the supervision of a Kansas-licensed attorney. The board will consider the proposal and make a recommendation to the Kansas Supreme Court, which has the authority to amend the rule.

Four states – Illinois, New York, Virginia, and Wisconsin – have model practice rules that permit registered in-house counsel to provide pro bono legal services without unnecessary limitations protecting those clients and requiring lawyer competency. Kansas’ proposed rule is more restrictive than these jurisdictions, allowing registered in-house counsel to provide pro bono legal services only if “associated with or affiliated with” an approved legal services organization or under the supervision of a locally licensed attorney. Currently, four states employ the rule proposed in Kansas.

The Access to Justice Committee of the Kansas Bar Association has endorsed the proposed amendment. Westar Energy, Inc., CVR Energy, Inc., and Excel Industries are among the companies with legal departments interested in expanding their opportunities to engage in pro bono.

There is tremendous need in Kansas to provide civil legal aid for low-income people. In 2017, Kansas Legal Services reported receiving requests for legal aid substantially in excess of what they were capable of handling – roughly 10,000 requests went unfulfilled last year due to staffing shortfalls. Executive Director of Kansas Legal Services Marilyn Harp sees “huge opportunities” for an influx of 200 in-house counsel to improve the delivery of legal aid to low-income individuals and communities.

As Jennifer Adams, chief legal counsel for Koch and a Texas-licensed attorney stated, “At Koch, we have a hunger to do this type of work. We feel it’s very well aligned with companywide initiatives we have on criminal justice reform and removing the barriers standing in the way of success for those that are underserved in our society.”

Multijurisdictional practice rules pose a significant obstacle for many in-house attorneys participating in pro bono work. Do you know your state’s multijurisdictional practice rules? CPBO has an interactive map where you can find out the rules in your state, or across the border in the next jurisdiction, in a matter of minutes. Do you have a specific question about your state? Contact CPBO’s Director at

Celebrating the Queen of Pro Bono

Esther F. Lardent

This week, Pro Bono Institute (PBI) celebrates the birthday of Esther F. Lardent, our late founder, and her lifelong work to achieve equal justice. Esther founded PBI in 1996 and led the organization for two decades, transforming the culture of pro bono in the legal profession.

Esther was known as the “Queen of Pro Bono” in part because of her innovative approaches to expand pro bono legal services. She inspired law firms and in-house law departments to motivate and encourage each other to do more pro bono, leveraging competition and public recognition as incentives. PBI Board Chair James W. Jones says her approach was genius: “It had never occurred to anybody to do those things.”

Esther’s spirit and passion live on at PBI. She is in our hearts and in the work that we do together every day. Join us in commemorating Esther’s birthday and help PBI continue her lifelong work with a gift to the EFL Fund. Share how you are working to improve access to justice using the hashtags #CelebrateEFL and #ProBonoProud.

Better, Together: CPBO Partner Awards

The Corporate Pro Bono Partner Award celebrates innovative and sustainable collaborations among in-house legal departments, law firms, and public interest organizations. PBI will recognize another one or two inspiring partnership at the 2018 Pro Bono Institute Annual Dinner on October 4 in New York City. The Partner Award has been presented annually since 2003, and we decided to check in with a couple of the previous Award winners to highlight some of the excellent initiatives that grew out of these partnerships.

One of the earliest recipients of the Award in 2006 was Microsoft Corporation** and Volunteer Advocates for Immigrant Justice (VAIJ), working together to provide pro bono representation to unaccompanied immigrant children, adults, and refugees in the Seattle area. That partnership evolved over time and led to the creation of Kids in Need of Defense (KIND). KIND provides pro bono legal representation for unaccompanied children facing immigration proceedings across the U.S. Since its inception, KIND had helped over 16,000 children, trained over 24,000 attorneys, and partnered with over 525 law firms, corporations, law schools and bar associations. KIND is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this year.

Verizon Communications Inc.** and DLA Piper*† received the Partner Award in 2011 for creating a an innovative partnership that  bolsters pro bono services in support of returning veterans, survivors of domestic violence, youth experiencing education-related issues, and nonprofit organizations  providing vital assistance to communities in need. The duo continues to collaborate on a number of different initiatives, including helping immigrant survivors of domestic violence  apply for U visas—a type of visa set aside for victims of crimes.  Most of the applications filed by the partners on behalf of their clients have been successful, resulting in a life-changing experience for the clients.

These are just a couple of the inspiring partnerships that CPBO and PBI have recognized through the years that have made an impact on communities in need.  The 2018 CPBO Pro Bono Partner Award will be presented at the PBI Annual Dinner on October 4, 2018 in New York City. 

The Endurance of Pro Bono

The Report on the 2017 Corporate Pro Bono Challenge ® Initiative: The Endurance of In-House Pro Bono will be released in May. This report summarizes the answers of respondents  to the CPBO Challenge® survey in 2016. In the meantime, we wanted to share a little preview with you.

Among the responding Challenge signatories, 52 percent of U.S. lawyers participated in pro bono work in 2016. In 2016, 88 percent of respondents reported a partnership with an outside law firm.

Currently, there are 180 signatories to the Corporate Pro Bono Challenge ® statement representing companies from around the world. To learn how your legal department can join the Challenge initiative and become a leader in in-house pro bono, contact Corporate Pro Bono Project Assistant Virginia Lyon.

Cravath, Swaine & Moore Takes up the Challenge

The Law Firm Pro Bono Project is pleased to announce that Cravath, Swaine & Moore* has become a signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® initiative. Since it was founded in 1819, the firm has shown strong dedication to pro bono work by providing a wide range of legal services to those in need.

Law Firm Challenge signatories publically acknowledge their institutional, firm-wide commitment to provide three or five percent of their billable hours, or 60 or 100 hours per attorney annually, to pro bono legal services for low-income and disadvantaged individuals and families and nonprofit groups. We encourage firms to publicize their status as signatories and demonstrate their participation and pledge to pro bono service. Making a public commitment to the Law Firm Challenge heightens awareness of pro bono at the firm, increases attorney participation, engages firm leadership, and sets clear and shared goals for success. More than 130 firms have pledged their commitment to the Challenge and their dedication to pro bono and access to justice.

For firms that have not yet joined because of concerns that they cannot meet the Challenge goals, we encourage you to enroll anyway and use this proven tool to advance pro bono at your firm. There is no downside, as we do not publish disaggregated statistics, nor do we in any way identify individual firms as having met or not met their Challenge goal. Rather, we work closely with Challenge signatories to provide individual and confidential consultative services and support to help them improve their pro bono performance.

By joining the Law Firm Challenge, Cravath has institutionalized and publicly announced their firm-wide commitment to providing pro bono legal services to low-income and disadvantaged individuals and the organizations that serve them. To learn how your firm can join the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® initiative and become a leader in law firm pro bono, contact Law Firm Pro Bono Project Assistant Elysse DeRita.

Where PB&J Meets PBI

If you are looking for a lunch and learn opportunity or simply want to listen to dynamic speakers discuss important topics in pro bono, register for one of our upcoming webinars! All past webinars, such as the popular Ferguson, Fines, and Fees program, are available on demand.

Here’s what’s coming soon:

  • Time’s Up: Actions for Gender Equity
  • Housing Matters
  • Serving Our Seniors
  • Protecting the First Amendment
  • Domestic Violence
  • When Helping Hurts: Sustaining Pro Bono Volunteers
  • Transactional Pro Bono
  • Partner Award

And don’t forget, all of our past webinars, such as the popular Ferguson, Fines, and Fees program, are available on demand.

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