Executive Vice President, General Counsel
Michael Fricklas is Viacom’s Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary. Viacom, one of the largest media companies in the world, includes Viacom Media Networks, home of Nickelodeon, COMEDY CENTRAL, MTV, VH1, SPIKE, BET, CMT, TV Land, Nick at Nite, Nick Jr., Channel 5(UK), Logo, Nicktoons, TeenNick and Paramount Channel, along with Paramount Pictures.
Viacom’s legal department, a signatory to the CPBO Challenge® initiative, is comprised of approximately 240 professionals in 17 countries. Members of the Viacom legal department have provided pro bono legal services on a range of topics over many years, around the world. Fricklas notes, “It starts with the company. Corporate social responsibility has been a big part of Viacom as long as I’ve been here. . . . There are lots of unmet needs in our community and we want to do our part. We want to do our part both as part of Viacom’s commitment and really just by part of the fact that we have a lot of people with great values and great ambitions.”
- Young Immigrants
Children and adolescents who come to the U.S. at a young age face many challenges and are among the most vulnerable in need of legal services. Viacom’s legal department has provided pro bono legal assistance to such individuals by working with Volunteers of Legal Service to assist those applying for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status [, a form of temporary relief from deportation for certain young immigrant students, enabling them to work legally while pursuing a higher education.] Viacom’s legal department has also staffed intake clinics for Kids in Need of Defense, an organization dedicated to providing counsel to every unaccompanied minor in the U.S[, to gather the necessary information to help these young people apply for specific relief, such as asylum, certain visas or other relief for which they qualify].
- Battling Biases and Their Impact
MTV’s “Look Different” campaign focuses on addressing societal biases, including racial, gender, and anti-LGBT. The effort includes research, communications, and support for organizations tackling these issues, including legal services. Many of the legal department’s pro bono efforts have addressed the legal impact of such biases and include representing women in uncontested divorces, helping transgender individuals obtain a legal name change and attaining asylum in the U.S. for a member of the LGBT community who faced persecution in Russia for his sexual orientation – and was the first time an in-house attorney single-handedly managed and won an Immigration Equality asylum case.
- Global Impact
Members of Viacom’s legal department worked with the producers of its television program Shuga: Love, Sex, Money, a TV drama produced by MTV Networks Africa in association with The MTV Staying Alive Foundation, to incorporate important information into the storyline about Kenya’s Sexual Offences Act, designed to combat gender-based violence. The Viacom pro bono team included lawyers from offices in Europe and the U.S., who collaborated across borders both internally and with [Shearman & Sterling LLP], along with Lawyers Without Borders, to research and analyze Kenyan case law and develop legal messaging that would be relevant and accessible to the Kenyan public. In addition, the team produced public education materials using the characters and storyline from Shuga aimed to increase public understanding of gender violence and raise awareness of the Sexual Offences Act, as well as, a “toolkit” that includes resources for Shuga partners, who work in and around Kenya.
Fricklas spoke about the pro bono efforts for Shuga and the potential impact of in-house pro bono at a CPBO meeting of in-house pro bono leaders in New York:
I couldn’t be more proud of the work our lawyers have done on the Shugaproject. They have been working on the scripts, editing story lines, and reaching millions of people. Given Viacom’s global footprint, international pro bono is a big piece of our overall pro bono efforts. This project was also particularly interesting because it allowed us to collaborate with, and leverage the expertise of, colleagues around the world. As a media company, we have to figure out what the right opportunities are and we are lucky we had this opportunity to do something that is a little different. Lawyers within every industry can find special projects that reflect their particular strengths.
Chief Legal Officer
Brad Smith is Microsoft’s President and Chief Legal Officer. In this role, Smith is responsible for the company’s corporate, external, and legal affairs. The teams he leads are responsible for the company’s legal work, its intellectual property portfolio, patent licensing business, corporate philanthropy, government affairs, public policy, corporate governance, and social responsibility work. In addition, Smith works to advance several significant legal diversity and pro bono initiatives.
Microsoft’s Corporate, External and Legal Affairs Department (CELA), a charter signatory to the CPBO Challenge® initiative, is a diverse and multidisciplinary team of approximately 1,300 legal, business, and corporate affairs professionals operating in 55 countries worldwide. CELA professionals have actively engaged in pro bono for many years on a variety of efforts.
- Kids in Need of Defense (KIND)
KIND is Microsoft’s signature pro bono program. It began in 2008, inspired by Microsoft’s involvement with Volunteer Advocates for Immigrant Justice (VAIJ) in Seattle. KIND provides bono legal representation for unaccompanied children facing immigration proceedings in the U.S. where the need is greatest and works at the micro-level on individual cases through volunteers from law firms, corporate legal departments, and law schools, as well as at the macro-level by advocating for policy changes that benefit unaccompanied children. KIND has worked with more than 12,500 attorneys and partnered with more than 330 companies, law firms, law schools, and bar associations and has served more than 5,000 children. In addition, it has advocated for critical changes in U.S. law, policy, and practice to improve the treatment and protection of unaccompanied children. In just this year, more than 100 Microsoft employees have worked on KIND cases to provide protection and safety to unaccompanied children in the U.S.
- Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
DACA was announced by President Obama in 2012. Shortly after the announcement, Microsoft began working with Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) to administer legal clinics to help address the needs of children and youth who came to the United States at a young age. Microsoft offers the legal staff and office space to run the clinics, while NWIRP provides the referrals and technical assistance for pro bono volunteers. Community members who have participated in the legal clinics are eligible to receive protection from deportation, and a recent study of those granted DACA status showed that after one year in the program, DACA recipients saw their average earnings rise by 45 percent.
- Pro Bono Around the World
Volunteers from Microsoft have worked on a number of direct service pro bono matters in the U.S. and abroad, which includes providing transactional legal advice to social entrepreneurs, drafting disaster relief provisions for global relief organizations, and working with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Patent Pro Bono Program, which helps low-income inventors apply for and secure patents.
In addition, Smith has served for many years as co-chair of Corporate Pro Bono’s Advisory Board, PBI’s global partnership project with the Association of Corporate Counsel. For all of their great work, PBI presented Smith and the legal department of Microsoft with its 2014 Laurie D. Zelon Pro Bono Award which honors Judge Zelon’s (California 2nd District Court of Appeal) pro bono leadership and her singular contributions to enhancing justice for all.
Senior Vice President – General Counsel
The Clorox Company
After the 2005 arrival of Laura Stein, Executive Vice President, General Counsel, and Corporate Secretary, the pro bono efforts of the legal department at The Clorox Company (Clorox) transformed from largely individual pro bono matters worked on after hours to a formal pro bono program.
“Laura enabled and encouraged us to build strong relationships with legal service providers and to find ways to have a lasting impact on the community in which we work” says Adam Brink, trademark counsel and pro bono coordinator, who leads Clorox’s pro bono program.
In the intervening decade, Clorox’s pro bono participation grew to 50 percent of all U.S. legal staff in 2013 as legal team members collaboratively pursue the company-wide value to “Do the right thing.”
The pro bono program at Clorox, a Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory, focuses its efforts on issues affecting low-income residents where the company is headquartered in Oakland, California. Clorox’s pro bono program includes projects assisting victims of domestic violence obtain restraining orders, helping local artists with intellectual property issues, and aiding low-income residents in housing disputes through a negotiation clinic. These opportunities allow Clorox attorneys and staff to work on issues affecting the local community in areas of both interest and expertise.
- Assistance to Victims of Domestic Violence
Since 2006, Clorox’s Oakland legal team has worked with the Family Violence Law Center (FVLC), providing in-court assistance to victims of domestic violence seeking restraining orders. Two senior Clorox attorneys have joined the Board of Directors of the FVLC to further enhance the impact of the organization.To address the lack of appellate precedent for California trial courts to follow, the Family Violence Appellate Project has made it their mission to appeal verdicts to bring clear and consistent application of the law in California domestic violence courts. Clorox attorneys have acted as moot judges to help Legal Aid attorneys prepare for oral hearings before the California Court of Appeals.
- Clinics for Underserved Populations
Project Clean Slate: Members of Clorox’s legal team assist the East Bay Community Law Center in operating legal clinics through Project Clean Slate, an effort to help people re-enter society after prison. Volunteers provide guidance on criminal record remedies so individuals can overcome barriers lingering criminal records pose to employment, housing, education, and civic participation.
- IP Guidance to Artists
In 2013, Clorox partnered with California Lawyers for the Arts to assist local artists with intellectual property-related issues. Roughly a third of Clorox attorneys specialize in intellectual property, and this partnership allows the department to leverage an existing skill set to support the local, low-income, artist community.