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PBI is getting ready for our Annual Awards Gala that brings together law firms, in-house legal departments, and others dedicated to advancing justice! This annual event is one way PBI recognizes exceptional pro bono achievements and inspires innovations in the delivery of pro bono legal services. It’s virtual and it’s on October 14 @ 6:30 PM (ET).
Awards Gala Co-Chairs
Senior Vice President
& Group General Counsel
|Sharon R. Ryan
Senior Vice President, General Counsel
& Corporate Secretary
International Paper Company**
Please visit the PBI 2021 Annual Awards Gala website for complete details.
O’Melveny & Myers LLP*is being honored with the PBI 2021 Pickering Award in recognition of the firm’s outstanding institutional commitment to pro bono and its robust pro bono practice. READ MORE ABOUT O’MELVENY’S PRO BONO PROGRAM
CPBO Pro Bono Partner Awardee: McDonald’s Corporation** in partnership with Goldberg Kohn, Jenner & Block LLP*, and National Immigrant Justice Center for their extensive efforts in representing asylum seekers. READ MORE ABOUT THIS OUTSTANDING PARTNERSHIP
CPBO Pro Bono Partner Awardee: Pfizer Inc.** in partnership with DLA Piper*† for their long-term partnership and ongoing work on sustainable projects with organizations around the globe. READ MORE ABOUT THIS OUTSTANDING PARTNERSHIP
PBI 2021 CONVOCATION: Impacting Communities Through Partnerships – Thursday, October 7 | 3:30–4:30 PM (ET). During this live Zoom Webinar, hear from the 2021 Corporate Pro Bono (CPBO) Pro Bono Partner Award recipients about the value of pro bono partnerships and how they impact communities. Get practical advice on how to start, grow, and sustain pro bono partnerships among law firms, legal departments, and legal aid organizations. Open to 2021 Annual Awards Gala sponsors and invited guests!
O’Melveny & Myers LLP†* will be honored with the 2021 John H. Pickering Award for its outstanding commitment to pro bono legal services. O’Melveny demonstrates its ongoing commitment to public service by actively encouraging all of its attorneys firmwide to engage in pro bono work. In 2020, O’Melveny attorneys and legal professionals dedicated approximately 99,062 pro bono hours to vital access to justice matters. We spoke with Bradley J. Butwin, firm chair, about their pro bono program and what it means to O’Melveny.
PBI: What does “defending the rights of the most vulnerable” mean to your firm?
Defending the rights of the most vulnerable means representing society’s most disadvantaged—those who, when their basic rights and needs are in jeopardy, cannot afford a lawyer to help protect or defend them. It means standing up for those who have been unfairly and unjustly treated. And that work is simply an innate part of our firm, long recognized as our highest calling and an enduring part of our story. Pro bono is not only a constant through our history, but also a fundamental part of our everyday culture. More than a century ago, Jack O’Melveny was the founding board chair of the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, the oldest provider of free legal services in California. He also was the inaugural chair of the first pro bono committee chartered by the L.A. County Bar Association. From the firm’s inception, community involvement was modeled from the top. It is in O’Melveny’s DNA.
PBI: How does O’Melveny recognize and celebrate pro bono within the firm?
O’Melveny has valued the ethics and ethos of a robust pro bono program for generations. We regularly share and celebrate our pro bono success stories with colleagues, as well as with the public. The firm has also established pro bono committees in each office, chaired by a partner. Many of those committees honor our work by bestowing awards for especially noteworthy excellence in pro bono matters.
And the firm’s most prestigious internal award is our annual Values Award, which was inspired by our former chair and former US Secretary of State Warren Christopher. The award is largely based on citizenship and community involvement, and pro bono work is often foremost among the winners’ achievements. We also recognize the importance of pro bono work in our firm policies, including giving full billable credit for all pro bono hours, with no cap.
Most importantly, we show the community how much we value pro bono work by taking on the most significant (and often controversial) issues of our time, day after day.
PBI: What led O’Melveny to forge a relationship with PBI in 2003, and how does PBI’s work remain relevant to the firm today? Why should firms join PBI’s Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® initiative? What helpful support have you received over the years from the Law Firm Pro Bono Project?
The best way to promote performance goals is to measure them, and the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge is a key yardstick for pro bono success. It sets common standards to evaluate pro bono programs across the country. Every year, we meet and exceed the criteria set out in the Challenge. We signed onto the Challenge because we wanted to be leaders in establishing, maintaining, and honoring those standards, and we would encourage other firms to do the same.
PBI: PBI is marking its 25th anniversary this year and celebrating the progress pro bono has made since PBI’s creation. How has pro bono changed at O’Melveny over the past two and a half decades?
While pro bono has been a foundation of the firm since its inception, our pro bono program has evolved, becoming more robust and adapting its focus as different societal crises have emerged. In 2006, O’Melveny embarked on a formal Pro Bono Initiative, hiring two full-time pro bono professional attorneys and adopting formal rules and procedures to define and nurture our pro bono practice. Since then, our pro bono program has grown exponentially, both in involvement and influence. Our frequent pro bono presence before the US Supreme Court is an indication of the important role our lawyers play in combatting poverty and injustice. Marshalling our unique skills and abundant resources, these cases have had an enormous impact. In cases including June Medical Services LLC v. Russo, Ramos v. Louisiana, and Brown v. Legal Foundation of Washington, we have helped shape the course of judicial history. At the same time, we take equal pride in our individual pro bono representations, finding motivation and inspiration from all our clients, many of whom have overcome tremendous challenges in their pursuit of their fair day in court.
PBI: Who was your most memorable pro bono client?
Early in my career I had the privilege of handling a pro bono death penalty case. And I felt the full weight of what was at stake: a man’s life. I was part of a team that filed a state habeas corpus petition on behalf of an indigent, Black man, who had been convicted of murder and sentenced to death by an all-white jury in Gainesville, Ga. After a four-year investigation, I was able to persuade the court at the habeas evidentiary hearing that my client’s trial attorney had been constitutionally ineffective and that my client had not pulled the trigger in the murder. The case was the first time a Georgia state habeas court granted both sentencing and guilt-phase relief in a capital case, and one of the first times that any court had reversed a death sentence since the US Supreme Court (in Strickland v. Washington in 1984) had established its high prejudice hurdle in ineffective-counsel cases. I think about that experience and what I learned from it to this day, and my commitment and resolve to fight for equal justice will stay with me forever.
On any given night there are roughly 580,466 people experiencing homelessness in the United States (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development). People who experience homelessness may be penalized and charged with civil offenses for trespassing, and receive fines and fees for actions including living in a vehicle, blocking the sidewalk, and smoking, urinating, drinking or sleeping in public. These acts can be categorized as ‘public nuisance offenses,’ which many people experiencing homelessness oftentimes have little option but to commit. Nonpayment of fines and fees can lead to collection agencies getting involved and tacking on hundreds of dollars to what is already owed. The inability to afford transportation can further compound the difficulties of homelessness by leading to missed court dates and default warrants. These penalties are piled on to already existing legal and societal barriers that the homeless face when trying to find a place to live, gain employment, receive public assistance, or get or reinstate a driver’s license.
Some jurisdictions are examining policies that deepen the cycle of homelessness and have begun to treat people experiencing homelessness with compassion and understanding, instead of hostility and contempt. The American Bar Association Commission on Homelessness & Poverty seeks to decriminalize homelessness by establishing homeless courts, where homeless defendants can receive legal aid that helps to break down the barriers that homeless individuals face when trying to create stability and maintain self-sufficiency in their lives. The ABA’s Commission and its Homeless Court Advisory Committee aid in the work of homeless courts by developing resources and best practices that courts can follow, offering training and technical assistance, and facilitating the creation of new homeless courts throughout the country. So far, the ABA has helped to establish roughly 70 homeless court programs operating across 21 states. READ MORE IN OUR LATEST BLOG
PBI interviewed Jonathan Cole, a partner with Baker Donelson, on the firm’s pro bono efforts to reduce homelessness. To access the interview, click here.
For two decades, the Corporate Pro Bono project has served as the premiere resource for legal departments and Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) chapters interested in building or expanding their pro bono programs. We could not have succeeded in this work without the support of legal department leaders. Time and time again, we see that having the support of a General Counsel or Chief Legal Officer strengthens an in-house bono program, increasing volunteer engagement and impact. From signing on the CPBO Challenge® initiative – a public commitment to encourage pro bono in the department — to showing up at pro bono events to volunteer with their colleagues, GCs and CLOs truly set the tone from the top.
This October, CPBO is hosting two programs featuring GCs and CLOs who are trailblazers with regard to supporting in-house pro bono engagement and access to justice.
On October 18, CPBO and American International Group, Inc. (AIG)** will present the “GC Forum on The Value of Dedicated In-House Pro Bono Counsel.” This forum, conceived of by Lucy Fato, Executive Vice President, General Counsel & Global Head of Communications and Government Affairs of AIG, will discuss why several legal department leaders created a full-time pro bono counsel position to run their in-house pro bono programs. Fato will hold a conversation with Marcus Brown, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Entergy**, and Dev Stahlkopf, Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer of Cisco**, about how hiring a dedicated pro bono professional to increase impact and take your in-house pro bono program to the next level. This program is for all legal department and in-house pro bono leaders interested in strategies to strengthen in-house pro bono, whether or not you are currently considering the hiring of an in-house pro bono professional.
Then, on October 21, CPBO will present a session at the 2021 Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) Annual Meeting, “The Chief Legal Officer’s Point of View: Sustainability, Racial Justice, and In-House Pro Bono.” This panel, moderated by PBI President and CEO Eve Runyon, will feature three legal department leaders who have truly stepped up when it comes to tackling racial inequity, supporting access to justice through pro bono engagement, and aligning their legal department pro bono programs with sustainability initiatives and corporate values. From addressing criminal justice reform to serving small business owners from marginalized communities to increasing diversity in the attorney pipeline, these departments are making an impact on their communities. This program will feature Todd Machtmes, General Counsel, Salesforce**, Sandra Phillips Rogers, Group Vice President, General Counsel, Chief Legal Officer, Corporate Secretary, and Chief Diversity Officer, Toyota Motor North America, and Allon Stabinsky, Senior Vice President and Chief Deputy General Counsel, Intel**. Come learn their strategies to improve equity and drive change. To attend, register here for the ACC Annual Meeting.
We hope to see you at our upcoming events! If you would like to learn more about CPBO or these upcoming events, please contact Alyssa Saunders at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The federal eviction moratorium has ended. Individuals and families are suffering and in dire need of relief. We ask you to step forward at this time of disproportionate and devastating impact on low income communities and communities of color to assist those threatened with housing insecurity and homelessness.
According to recent estimates by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 8.8 million families are behind on their rent, and more than 40 percent of adult renters who say they are behind on rent believe they will be evicted from their homes in the next two months.
Congress has designated $46.5 billion in Emergency Rental Assistance to provide significant economic relief to individuals, which is being distributed to states, counties, cities, and tribes. The American Rescue Plan allocated $350 billion to state and local governments, and the Treasury Department has clarified that these funds can be used for diversion programs that “prevent eviction or homelessness.”
This relief needs to get in the hands of those who need it immediately—but the need is great and the process is unacceptably slow.
PBI’s pro bono community and Signatories to both the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® and Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® initiatives have demonstrated their willingness and passion to commit millions of pro bono hours annually to represent underserved communities. Never has the need been greater than today to reenergize your commitment to access to justice for those in such need.
We ask you to come together and commit your pro bono expertise to support, in each local jurisdiction, the legal service providers and other organizations that are providing direct help and counseling to those who need it most, including both renters and landlords. We applaud the creative and innovative solutions being developed, including comprehensive eviction diversion programs, but we need your help.
PBI will continue to stand united with all of our Signatories, members, partners, and legal services organizations to ensure that no person in need of assistance is left wanting.
The PBI CPBO Challenge® initiative is celebrating its 15th Anniversary this year! CPBO staff and members of the CPBO Advisory Board are calling on General Counsels and Chief Legal Officers to sign onto the CPBO Challenge on behalf of their legal departments. Please make this public commitment to supporting access to justice through pro bono. We want to reach our goal of 200 signatories by the end of 2021, to increase the amount of available pro bono services for those who need it most at this critical time! READ MORE
The next Financial Institution Pro Bono Day (FIPBD) will be held on April 28, 2022! This event, organized by the CPBO initiative, a project of PBI, in partnership with financial institutions in cities across the U.S. and globally, brings together pro bono leaders from the legal departments of financial institutions, in partnership with legal services organizations and law firms. READ ABOUT FIPBD 2021 and FIPBD 2019.
* denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® signatory
** denotes a Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory
† denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Project® member