“You must be bold, brave, and courageous and find a way…to get in the way.”
—Rep. John Lewis
Inspiring Virtual Events that Promote Pro Bono
The PBI Annual Dinner has been a tradition in the access to justice community since 2005. In the past, this event has brought together law firms, in-house law departments, and others dedicated to access to justice to celebrate and honor extraordinary pro bono achievements and inspire innovations in the delivery of pro bono legal services.
This year, in light of current circumstances brought on by the pandemic and to provide programming that resonates with PBI’s stakeholders, PBI will present the virtual 2020 Fighting for Justice Series.
October 1, 2020
Featuring the presentation of
2020 John H. Pickering Award to Ropes & Gray
2020 CPBO Pro Bono Partner Awards
Amazon in partnership with K&L Gates and Mary’s Place
Spectacular Keynote Address
Speaker to be announced soon.
Racial Justice Forum
Presentations and workshops with dynamic leaders on the forefront of racial justice issues
General Counsel Roundtables
Intimate networking roundtables hosted by corporate general counsel and chief legal officers who champion pro bono and racial justice and equality.
List of participating General Counsel and CLOs.
The content, speakers, and events that comprise the Fighting for Justice Series is evolving to best reflect our changing times, and updates will be provided as soon as they become available.
Voting is one of the most valued rights in America today, and as the Supreme Court noted more than a century ago, it is “preservative of all rights.” However, the battle for enfranchisement has been anything but straightforward. When America was founded, the right to vote was determined by the states and largely the exclusive province of white, property-owning men over the age of 21. It wasn’t until 1856 that all white men were given the right to vote, and it took another 14 years for men of color to gain the right to vote by law. However, laws are no better than their implementation, and our history is rich with examples of prejudicial barriers designed to keep eligible voters of color from the polls (e.g. poll taxes, literacy tests, and impersonation/intimidation) for generations after the U.S. Constitution was amended to proscribe racial discrimination at the state level regarding voting rights. Women didn’t gain the right to vote nationwide until 1920, followed by Native Americans, who were granted citizenship (and therefore the right to vote) with the passage of the Indian Citizenship Act in 1924, and finally Asian-Americans in 1952.
Voting activism found a long overdue victory with the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, which guaranteed the right to vote regardless of sex, race, religion, or education to all citizens over the age of 21. The 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA) eliminated literacy tests in the U.S. and provided for federal enforcement of voter registration and voting rights. Finally, in 1971, the 26th Amendment lowered the voting age from 21 to 18, a response to public outcry that 18-year-olds were old enough to die for their country but not old enough to cast their ballot.
In 2013, the Supreme Court found in Shelby County v. Holder that a part of the Voting Rights Act—that required jurisdictions with a history of suppressing voting rights to seek preclearance from the U.S. Department of Justice prior to making changes in their election laws —unconstitutional, which has led to voter suppression of minorities due to a massive-scale closing of polling places, among other practices, making it harder for minority and low-income communities to vote. Add the COVID-19 pandemic, which also disproportionately affects Black and Brown communities, to the existing voting system and voter participation is unlikely to be fairly reflective of those who are entitled to vote.
As legal professionals, we are called to advocate for and uphold the right to vote, the hinge pin to all other rights bestowed under law—whether that be mitigating the effects of burdensome voter ID laws by helping individuals, or advocating for voting-by-mail which has become increasingly popular in recent years and could be a critical alternative to in-person voting this fall. We have many examples types of voting rights pro bono opportunities in our latest blog. FIND OUT MORE.
During PBI’s month-long Virtual Conference, in June, we offered up a stellar line-up of pre-recorded webinars, live sessions, and keynote speakers for the pro bono legal community as a whole, and tracked sessions specifically designed to develop and strengthen pro bono at law firms, in-house law departments, and public interest organizations. Did you miss it? We got you. We packaged the entire conference up, and now you can watch 13 of the conference sessions on demand through West LegalEdcenter, with most offering CLE credit. Live sessions were recorded and can be accessed on YouTube.
The PBI Virtual Conference On-Demand Package has sessions for seasoned pro bono professionals as well as newcomers to the field. Each recorded session and webinar features pro bono leaders and visionaries sharing their valuable experience and insights. Check out the great PBI Virtual Conference sessions for your track, then purchase your package today!
While our stellar line-up of access to justice keynote speakers was offered live during the conference, you can still be inspired by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, Fair Fight Founder Stacey Abrams, and President & executive Director of the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Kristen Clarke.
Minnesota Attorney General, Keith Ellison
Keith Ellison is Minnesota’s 30th attorney general. As the People’s Lawyer, Attorney General Ellison’s job is to help Minnesotans afford their lives and live with dignity, safety, and respect. Ellison addressed PBI conference attendees and guests to discuss racial justice.
“We all swore an oath when we became attorneys…that we would not only factor in pecuniary interests, not only the money, but that we would have a higher calling and a higher service to the cause of justice. We are officers of the court and we are in the justice business.” WATCH NOW
Stacey Abrams is a New York Times bestselling author, serial entrepreneur, nonprofit CEO, and founder of a political action committee that works to combat voter suppression, Fair Fight. She served for 11 years in the Georgia House of Representatives, seven as Democratic Leader. In 2018, Abrams became the Democratic nominee for Governor of Georgia, winning more votes than any other Democrat in the state’s history. Abrams addressed PBI conference attendees and guests to discuss racial justice and voter suppression. In 2019, she launched Fair Count to ensure accuracy in the 2020 Census and greater participation in civic engagement, and the Southern Economic Advancement Project, a public policy initiative to broaden economic power and build equity in the South. Find out more about Fair Fight.
“And the work for me was very clear. It was that we had to reaffirm our commitment to democracy. Especially in places like Georgia, where voter suppression was stealing the voices of thousands of people.” “You can be part of a solution. By signing up and being ready to be put in a volunteer army of attorneys who are ready to go into communities where the right to vote may not be real without you.” WATCH NOW
Kristen Clarke leads one of the country’s most important national civil rights organizations in the pursuit of equal justice for all. The Lawyers’ Committee seeks to promote fair housing and community development, economic justice, voting rights, equal educational opportunity, criminal justice, judicial diversity and more.
Corporate Pro Bono is getting ready to release its 2020 Corporate Pro Bono Challenge Report. This report analyzes pro bono participation of Corporate Pro Bono Challenge signatories in 2019. 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. Among survey respondents, 67 percent achieved the goal of at least 50 percent participation in pro bono by the lawyers in the legal department, and 32 percent achieved the goal that at least 50 percent of legal department staff (including paralegals, legal assistants, and other professionals) participated in pro bono. Among respondents, an average of 59 percent of lawyers and 38 percent of legal staff participated in pro bono in 2019.
We thank everyone who participated in our latest Corporate Pro Bono Challenge survey and look forward to releasing the full report soon!
Deloitte Greenhouse®, PBI Leadership and Law Firm Pro Bono Project® Initiative Members Forge Ahead with Pro Bono Innovation
In the face of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, the Law Firm Pro Bono Project Visioning Lab was held on August 5-6, albeit in virtual form. The Greenhouse sessions were an opportunity for PBI staff to engage in a forward-looking introspection aimed at envisioning where PBI could be most useful in a world of ever more sophisticated law firm pro bono programs and how PBI could get there.
The first day’s session was attended by 15 representatives of some of the most committed Project member firms and other pro bono community stakeholders, 9 Deloitte representatives (who led the event without a hitch), and PBI President and CEO Eve Runyon, along with Project staff. The second day was attended by a cross-section of PBI Board of Directors and Project Advisory Committee Members, as well as the Deloitte and PBI teams from Day One.
The Greenhouse sessions combined behavioral science, analytics, technology, and facilitation to transcend traditional barriers to problem solving and strategic thinking. PBI is now reviewing the results of the Greenhouse sessions, which will be discussed with the Project’s Advisory Committee, prior to developing a specific strategic plan. The end result will be an enhanced Project providing law firms with assistance targeted to the areas of greatest need and increased impact for law firm pro bono programs.
Thanks to all of the visionary law firms that are collaborating with PBI in this effort to ensure that PBI will continue to be a recognized innovator and an important contributor to the development and expansion of pro bono culture within the law firm community.
We have begun planning for PBI’s 2021 Annual Conference – the legal profession’s premier pro bono event and the only conference specifically tailored to the interests, needs, resources, and issues faced by pro bono leaders at law firms, in-house departments, and public interest and legal services organizations! PBI’s Annual Conference offers substantive sessions, recognition of pro bono excellence, unique networking opportunities, and more.
The dates for next year’s Conference at the Capital Hilton in downtown Washington, D.C., are Wednesday, March 24 – Friday, March 26, 2021.
As part of our efforts to keep PBI’s Annual Conference fresh, informative, and exciting, we welcome your suggestions for concurrent and plenary sessions. Please submit your suggestions for session topics, speakers, or other ideas you may have by September 7.
All proposals must be submitted using our online form. If you have more than one great idea, submit them using multiple forms.
Questions about submitting a proposal? Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- PBI resources include a COVID-19 Pro Bono Resource Center and PBI’s Special Podcast Series: The Challenge of COVID-19: Legal Community in Action. Additionally, many of our Virtual Conference webinars and live sessions deal with how pro bono is meeting the challenge of the pandemic. (Sessions are now provided on-demand for those you may have missed.)
- The ABA Coronavirus (COVID-19) Task Force Web Site is a national source of information about the coronavirus and the delivery of legal services. It includes resources on remote service delivery, court access and rules changes, legal needs, public benefits programs, and pro bono mobilization.
- Bloomberg Law is providing free access to comprehensive legal resources relating to COVID-19. The links below include information on judicial operations, state agency announcements and emergency rules, state-by-state unemployment insurance benefits, labor protections, checklists and toolkits, and state legislative activity.
- The Paul | Weiss Coronavirus Resource Center
- The TrustLaw COVID-19 Response is a repository of legal resources produced by law firms and others around the globe to support NGOs and social enterprises in response to the pandemic.
* denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® signatory
** denotes a Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory
† denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Project® member