May/June 2011 Pro Bono Spotlight: Exelon Corporation
Chicago-based Exelon Corporation, one of the nation’s largest electric and gas utilities, prides itself on its commitment to employee volunteer service — a value exemplified by the company’s legal department. Exelon Legal has a longstanding tradition of providing pro bono legal services to the communities in which the company operates. In 2010 alone, 89 members of the legal staff, including 49 attorneys, performed more than 1,410 hours of pro bono service — the equivalent of 35 full workweeks and a 10% increase over 2009. As a result, PILI named Exelon to its 2010 Pro Bono Recognition Roster, and the National Immigrant Justice Center awarded Exelon the 2010 Midwest Light of Human Rights Corporate Award.
Exelon’s general counsel and other senior leadership have made pro bono service one of the legal department’s core values, instituting a policy that encourages all department employees to participate in providing volunteer legal services. The policy permits Exelon attorneys and paralegals to apply up to 70 hours of pro bono work against their annual threshold hourly requirement. The legal department also goes a step further by engaging its outside counsel in pro bono activities. When retaining outside counsel, Exelon questions and rates prospective firms on their pro bono and community service work and requires all retained firms to respond to semi-annual surveys detailing their pro bono activities.
Exelon’s pro bono service runs the gamut, from preparing wills and powers of attorney for first responders to helping refugees and asylees apply for green cards or bring family members to the U.S. In one particular case, with the support of senior leadership, two Exelon lawyers have spent more than 1,000 hours since 2007 working to vindicate a man who was sentenced to death in Alabama. Recently, they convinced the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals to remand the case to the trial court for additional hearing, giving the defendant the opportunity to take discovery and present evidence in his defense.
March/April 2011 Pro Bono Spotlight: Chicago Volunteer Legal Services
CVLS was founded in 1964 by a handful of young attorneys who wanted to donate legal services to low-income Chicagoans. They recruited friends and worked out of church basements, advising, counseling and, eventually representing clients who came to see them in these evening and weekend neighborhood legal aid clinics. When CVLS incorporated as a not-for-profit and obtained tax-exempt status in the early 1970s, it added a small staff component to support volunteers in their pro bono work.
Today CVLS’ mission remains the same: To coordinate, promote and support the involvement of the legal community in the voluntary pro bono representation of individual clients from the ranks of the Chicago area's poor and working poor. Last year, CVLS' 3,000 volunteers helped more than 18,000 clients—for free. Most of their clients are minority. Many are disabled. All are low-income.
CVLS operates 22 neighborhood legal clinics in spaces donated by neighborhood social service organizations and churches, a panel referral program and three court-appointment programs in conjunction with the Circuit Court of Cook County. Law students and attorneys interested in volunteering have a wealth of opportunities to use their skills to help low income clients.
Two of CVLS’ newest, and some might say, most innovative and fun programs are the ThunderDome Divorce Clinic and the Circuit Court of Cook County Foreclosure Mediation Program.
The ThunderDome Divorce Clinic provides a collegial experience for volunteers while they learn how to do a simple divorce case and help their clients. Attorneys work in groups with each handling his or her own case under the supervision of an experienced staff attorney and with the support of the other volunteers. Monthly training sessions correspond to each specific stage of the case. Attorneys receive individual support, with the staff attorney available between monthly trainings, and because the volunteers are all at similar stages in their cases, attorneys also learn from each other.
In the Foreclosure Mediation Project, foreclosure judges appoint CVLS to represent homeowners in mediation. Under this innovative program homeowners and lenders try to settle foreclosure cases with the assistance of specially trained mediators. This work involves crunching numbers, financial wheeling and dealing and advocating for the client. It’s “litigation light,” rarely demanding more than 20 hours of an attorney’s time, but making an immeasurable difference in the life of the client. Cases that don’t settle after a few sessions are sent back to foreclosure court, ending the volunteer’s involvement.
CLVS is excited about their new pro bono opportunities. But as far as they’re concerned, it ultimately doesn’t matter how you volunteer, just that you volunteer. Whether you jump in to try something new, like the ThunderDome Divorce Clinic or the Foreclosure Mediation Project, or whether you continue to serve and grow in your existing volunteer position, pro bono work should be an intrinsic, personally rewarding part of every attorney’s life.
Visit CVLS’ website at www.clvs.org for more information about their programs, clinics, and volunteer opportunities.
October/November 2010 Pro Bono Spotlight: DePaul University College of Law
In fulfillment of DePaul University’s distinctive mission of service, and in preparation for attorneys’ unique professional responsibilities, DePaul University College of Law’s Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative (“PBCSI”) encourages and facilitates law student pro bono and community service work with organizations that address the needs of underserved individuals and groups. Each DePaul law student is encouraged to complete at least 50 hours of service during his or her time at the law school. Students reporting at least 50 hours of service are honored at an annual reception in the spring. PBCSI works in close collaboration with the Center for Public Interest Law and is managed by an attorney director and three student leaders.
One way PBCSI encourages student pro bono and community service work is by connecting students to one of its six partner organizations, which provides students with opportunities to gain in-depth knowledge of an area of law advocacy while assisting low-income individuals. Twice a year, PBCSI holds a Service Activities Fair where students can talk directly with representatives from PBCSI’s partner organizations and other local agencies to learn more about available pro bono opportunities.
One of PBCSI’s partners is Cabrini Green Legal Aid, which provides free legal services in the areas of family law, housing law, criminal law and expungement. DePaul students volunteer at CGLA’s Expungement Help Desk and also perform intake interviews at the CGLA offices. Another PBCSI partner, the Center for Disability and Elder Law, provides free legal services to low-income elderly persons and persons with disabilities in a range of civil legal areas. DePaul students volunteer at CDEL’s Guardianship Pro Se help desk and also participate in CDEL’s Senior Center Initiative. DePaul Student Legal Service is also a PBCSI partner and provides high quality, free or low-cost legal advice to DePaul students on a wide range of common problems. DePaul students assist with client interviews and make referrals to helpful resources.
Another way that PBCSI promotes pro bono work is through its Donate-a-Day projects. These projects provide meaningful service and pro bono opportunities for students whose schedules do not permit them to make an extended volunteer commitment.
PBCSI also works with other law school Centers to provide pro bono opportunities for DePaul students. For example, PBCSI, the Schiller, Ducanto & Fleck Family Law Center, and the Center for Public Interest Law are working closely with Chief Judge Dickler of the Domestic Violence Courthouse to develop a pilot project to improve the courthouse’s intake system. Using volunteer law students and alumni, the project aims to ensure that battered individuals receive better information about whether to pursue criminal charges or to obtain a civil order of protection.
Finally, DePaul’s legal clinics also offer meaningful pro bono opportunities for students. For example, the Asylum and Immigration Law Clinic has recently begun the U Visa Summer Pro Bono Project which pairs law students with victims of certain crimes in need of assistance in pursuing immigration benefits.
These are just a few of the wide range of pro bono opportunities offered and supported at DePaul University College of Law. The College of Law’s institutional support of PBCSI reflects its commitment to pro bono and social justice and makes it possible for students to find pro bono work that is meaningful to them and works with their class schedules.
Pictured (L to R): DePaul Law student Maxmilliene Elliot, recepient of the Benjamin Hooks Distinguished Public Service Award and Dean Warren Wolfson.
August/September 2010 Pro Bono Spotlight: Baker & McKenzie
Baker & McKenzie's commitment to pro bono and community service is deeply entrenched in its culture. The program begins locally, where Firm lawyers work to ensure meaningful access to justice by all persons, including those who are marginalized or are of limited means, by providing direct representation or by assisting the nonprofit entities that serve them. The Firm’s passion to help all communities in which it is present expands the program globally, with projects addressing some of the most complex and challenging issues of our day.
The Firm’s pro bono practice has grown organically. Robert Deignan, Co-Chair of the Chicago Office Pro Bono Committee, explains that “the Firm’s pro bono work follows the interests and passions of our people.” Indeed, the pro bono work performed in one office may be very different from the work performed in another office. This varied interest has resulted in a diverse pro bono program. Examples of this diverse work include representing children with learning disabilities in special education matters to representing survivors of violence in petitions for divorces and applications for political asylum; preparing wills, advance directives and powers of attorneys for senior citizens of limited means; engaging in comparative international analysis and strategic policy to assist nations in conflict and those seeking post-conflict stabilization mechanisms; and drafting legislation, including the drafting of new constitutions.
This array of pro bono services is spearheaded by pro bono leaders throughout the Firm’s global network. In North America, Baker & McKenzie has a full-time director of pro bono and community service. The director is a Firm partner, and is an actively practicing lawyer. The Firm also has a partner directing the Firm’s client teaming efforts. Many client-teaming projects involve cross-border issues, which allows the Firm to leverage its global legal talent with the global business reach of its corporate clients, resulting in a greater impact in the communities being served. Baker & McKenzie is a leader in client teaming, receiving the first Corporate Pro Bono Partnering Award from the Pro Bono Institute for its pioneering work in the field.
Locally, Baker & McKenzie’s Chicago office is on the PILI Law Firm Pro Bono Recognition Roster. In 2009, Chicago office attorneys donated more than 9,000 hours of pro bono time, averaging to over 40 hours per attorney, with just over 75% of the office’s lawyers contributing to the program. Local pro bono projects typically come through organizations such as the Center for Disability and Elder Law, National Immigrant Justice Center, Community Economic Development Law Project (CEDLP) and Chicago Volunteer Legal Services.
A notable example of Baker & McKenzie’s impact in Chicago involves New Moms, a Chicago nonprofit that serves diverse, highly at-risk moms between the ages of 13 and 21. Most of these at-risk moms are, by definition, homeless and survivors of abuse, neglect or violence. New Moms’ goal is to enable, empower, and equip these young mothers with the services and mentoring they need to break their cycle of poverty. The organization turned to CEDLP to obtain pro bono assistance in reviewing its policies and in acquiring land to build a new facility to house its young mothers.
Working with the administrative team at New Moms, a multi-disciplinary team of Baker lawyers completed a complicated legal assessment. As a result of this thorough legal assessment, the organization became stronger, and the real estate development deal moved forward resulting in an increasing population of new moms breaking the cycle of poverty.
Speaking at a recent Baker & McKenzie pro bono awards reception, Audalee McLoughlin, CEO of New Moms, told the audience, “I wanted to be here today to thank you in person and to put a face on our organization in order to remind all of you who worked so unselfishly on New Moms’ behalf that you are truly making the lives of our young people better.”
June/July 2010 Pro Bono Spotlight: Caterpillar, Inc.
PILI is pleased to announce that Caterpillar, Inc., is the recipient of the John C. McAndrews Pro Bono Service Award from the Illinois State Bar Association. When Caterpillar started its program in 2006, the goal was to achieve 50% participation among legal staff; by 2009, the program had achieved 60% participation. In Illinois, this number is even higher with 134 out of 176 staff members participating. Today, Caterpillar serves as a model for other corporate pro bono programs and recently presented at the Pro Bono Institute Annual Seminar/Forum in Washington DC.
Caterpillar’s program has served numerous areas throughout the state, with a focus on the Peoria and Chicago communities. Caterpillar has a “cafeteria-style” program that offers opportunities for the Legal Services Division to give back in different substantive areas. Caterpillar works with a variety of legal aid organizations across the state and also collaborates with outside counsel law firms on pro bono service. Several times a year Caterpillar partners with a Peoria or Chicago law firm to host a day-long clinic for a specific population; examples include preparing green card applications, preparing basic tax returns for low-income individuals, and preparing wills and advanced directives for police and firefighters. Caterpillar also has longer-term “Partnership Projects,” assisting on discrete portions of larger projects along with a law firm.
A Steering Committee comprised of Caterpillar’s General Counsel and delegates from the United States offices lead Caterpillar’s program. International offices will be soon involved, as well. The Steering Committee develops overall program strategy based on issues that are most critical to individuals and the community and seeks to replicate successful programs throughout Caterpillar’s legal offices. A Local Committee made up of attorneys, paralegals, and administrative staff covers the three Peoria-area offices and Downers Grove. This committee is supported by three subcommittees (Communications, New Business, and Outreach), and each section of the legal services division has its own section liaison who shares pro bono opportunities and solicits ideas from section members.
Caterpillar is truly a leader among corporate pro bono programs, taking on an advocacy role in addition to providing direct legal services. In 2007, Caterpillar attorneys were part of the statewide effort to modify the Illinois Supreme Court Rules. While the rule changes to allow attorneys with limited house counsel status to provide pro bono legal services were primarily sponsored by several Illinois bar associations, Caterpillar attorneys testified on behalf of the rule change and were instrumental in gaining the support of other corporate law departments. Attorneys with limited house counsel status now play a part in increasing access to justice for underserved individuals and communities by providing pro bono legal services.
PILI nominated Caterpillar for the McAndrews Award, and letters of support came from Prairie State Legal Services, Center for Disability and Elder Law, Seyfarth Shaw LLP, Baker & McKenzie, and National Immigrant Justice Center.
April/May 2010 Pro Bono Spotlight: McDermott Will & Emery LLP
McDermott Will & Emery has long recognized the importance of supporting and offering pro bono assistance to the less fortunate. In 2009, McDermott attorneys and staff donated more than 75,500 hours to pro bono and community service initiatives. McDermott’s Chicago office has been instrumental in achieving significant victories for pro bono clients in a uniquely broad range of legal disciplines, including:
Civil Rights and Civil Liberties
- McDermott demonstrates its long-standing dedication to the LGBT community through legal clinics at the Center on Halsted and the Broadway Youth Center.
- After extensive negotiations, McDermott secured a favorable settlement for a victim of racial discrimination in her lawsuit against a major restaurant chain.
- McDermott has partnered with Human Rights Watch to compile ground-breaking evidence that a staggering number of rape kits languish, untested, in police storage facilities across the country.
- On January 14, 2010, after more than five years of diligent representation by McDermott, Michael Tillman walked out of the Chicago criminal courthouse as a free man after spending more than 23 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.
- McDermott challenged – and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed – a client’s money laundering conviction. Judge Easterbrook called the government’s theory a “preposterous understanding of net receipts.”
- McDermott obtained the full reversal of a client’s conviction on multiple health care/mail fraud charges because the jury that originally convicted him was tainted by racial prejudice. The successful appeal resulted in a substantially reduced sentence.
- McDermott has advocated on behalf of clients facing the death penalty, including challenging the capital conviction of an inmate on Georgia’s death row and filing amicus briefs challenging the sentence.
- After a two-day hearing on the merits, including presentation of fact and expert witnesses, McDermott secured asylum for a torture victim from Chad. His asylum was based on past persecution and his well-founded fear of future persecution.
- McDermott secured asylum for an Eritrean citizen who was arrested and tortured by the military on several occasions during forced military service between 1995 and 2008.
- Beginning in September 2010, McDermott is sponsoring an Equal Justice Works fellow at the National Immigrant Justice Center. Her fellowship project focuses on expanding and improving the quality of representation of detained unaccompanied immigrant children by creating a legal orientation curriculum and an Internet-based attorney toolkit.
Kids First Initiative
- McDermott’s Kids First program provides at-risk children across the United States and abroad with legal representation for a variety of needs, including education, government benefits, adoption, guardianship, guardian ad litem services, and legislative policy reform.
- McDermott lawyers assisted a severely disabled 19-year-old to obtain placement at a therapeutic day school after Chicago Public Schools ignored her needs for over three years and failed to provide the most basic services.
- McDermott represented a 15-year-old girl in a custody dispute between her parents. The client sought to end visitation with her father based on its emotional and mental damage. Despite a very high standard of proof, the court found the evidence McDermott presented "overwhelming" proof that the girl was being harmed and ceased all visitation.
- A multi-disciplinary team of McDermott attorneys are conducting a comprehensive legal assessment of the Chicago Community Loan Fund, through CEDLP.
- McDermott’s Chicago attorneys represent the DC Primary Care Association and are helping implement a highly complex and cutting-edge regional health information organization that will govern the information exchange among healthcare stakeholders.
February/March 2010 Pro Bono Spotlight: McDonald's Corporation
McDonald’s Legal Department has an award-winning, nationally recognized Pro Bono program. McDonald’s has a Pro Bono policy and an active Pro Bono Committee charged with identifying projects, increasing the Legal Department’s participation in Pro Bono work and administering the program. The Committee screens Pro Bono projects to ensure the opportunities are a match for the Company, and members of the Committee serve as lead lawyers for projects. In addition, McDonald’s encourages involvement on boards of public service and non-profit organizations.
Through its Pro Bono program, McDonald’s works to provide legal assistance to low-income individuals and to help elementary and secondary students from diverse backgrounds develop the skills, knowledge and attitudes necessary to serve their communities as active, responsible citizens. For its Pro Bono work, McDonald’s has partnered with organizations including Street Law, the Community Economic Development Law Project, the Constitutional Rights Foundation of Chicago, the National Immigrant Justice Center, the Center for Disability and Elder Law and Chicago Volunteer Legal Services.
One of McDonald’s most successful Pro Bono projects and partnerships has been with the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago (LAF), which provides free legal aid to the most vulnerable people in Cook County. McDonald’s Legal Department helped design and now runs the organization’s Pro Bono Medical Assistance Program. Through the program, attorneys and other members of the Legal Department work directly with low-income families to assist them with obtaining and retaining their Medicaid benefits. During its participation in this program, McDonald’s has helped over one hundred individuals and families retain their medical benefits.
In an effort to further increase Pro Bono work performed by members of the Legal Department, the Legal leadership team encourages Pro Bono work and allows employees to engage in Pro Bono projects on Company time and at the Company’s expense. In addition, Pro Bono opportunities are included on the agenda at Legal Department meetings, and the Pro Bono Committee has dedicated a section of the Legal Department’s intranet site to Pro Bono. All members of the Legal Department – from paralegals to administrative assistants to attorneys – are encouraged to be active participants in the Pro Bono program. The Committee recognizes individuals who volunteer for Pro Bono projects by giving awards for their Pro Bono service. The Committee regularly hosts Pro Bono awards receptions. Leaders of the Legal Department’s partner public service organizations attend the receptions to thank McDonald’s staff for their time and effort dedicated to Pro Bono. Several members of the McDonald’s Legal Department have also received outside recognition for their Pro Bono work.
Pictured: Members of McDonald's Legal Department who are active in its Pro Bono Program.
July/August 2011 Pro Bono Spotlight: Kirkland & Ellis LLP
Kirkland & Ellis LLP’s commitment to pro bono work has established them as not only a critical supporter of legal services in Chicago, in Illinois, and across the country, but also as a leader in pro bono, providing innovative programs, high quality representation, and literally thousands of hours of pro bono work to low-income individuals and families. In 2010, partners, associates, paralegals and legal secretaries in Kirkland’s Chicago office alone contributed more than 24,500 hours of pro bono work in partnership with 20+ Chicago-area legal service agencies. They handled 320 matters for 400 pro bono clients, in addition to the several thousand more affected by class action litigation. Sixty percent of Kirkland’s attorneys currently participate in their pro bono program, with 35 attorneys having contributed over 200 hours to pro bono in the last year.
Impressive as these numbers are, it is the stories behind these numbers that are truly inspirational. From disaster relief and immigration to education, public benefits, and civil and human rights, the breadth and depth of Kirkland’s pro bono work touches the lives of their clients where their need is the greatest. For example, in June 2010, Kirkland partnered with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless on Hill v. Erickson, a class action representing 732 pregnant and parenting state wards and their children, securing a resolution to protect state-funded services for pregnant and parenting teens in Illinois. Kirkland attorneys also contributed 6,400 hours toward a landmark legal agreement for Illinoisans living with mental illness. Together with nonprofit partners working in disabilities and human rights, Kirkland fought to ensure that the state of Illinois develop, implement and track individualized plans to transition people with mental illnesses currently housed in nursing homes to community-based settings instead, where they are much more likely to flourish. The tireless efforts of Kirkland attorneys and legal professionals changed the lives of hundreds of parenting teens, thousands of people living with mental illness, and many countless others.
Kirkland’s nonprofit partners have enthusiastically commended Kirkland’s pro bono work. The AIDS Legal Counsel of Chicago says Kirkland has “gone above and beyond” in representing their pro bono clients, providing leadership on their board, and sponsoring their events. Equip for Equality has acknowledged Kirkland’s 25 years of legal counsel, board service and client representation in individual and class action cases, some of which established important legal precedent in the state of Illinois. Lawyers for the Creative Arts, a longtime partner of Kirkland’s, has noted the high participation rate of partners, not only associates, in Kirkland’s pro bono programs. “Kirkland gives its pro bono clients the same time, attention and skill it gives their regular clients,” says LCA. “They routinely take our most complicated, difficult and time-consuming matters.”
As a result of its commitment to pro bono, its leadership and its innovation, Kirkland has been the recipient of several pro bono awards and honors. Most recently in June of 2011, PILI nominated Kirkland for the Illinois State Bar Association’s prestigious John C. McAndrews Pro Bono Service Award, and Kirkland was selected as the award recipient. PILI congratulates Kirkland on receiving this award in recognition of their commitment to providing free legal services to low-income Illinoisans and to expanding the availability of legal services.
November/December 2009 Pro Bono Spotlight: Kirkland & Ellis LLP
Kirkland & Ellis LLP was recognized at PILI's 2009 Annual Awards Luncheon with its Pro bono Initiative Award in recognition of the significant pro bono work of the firm. Contributing to organizations that support local communities has always been a top priority at Kirkland & Ellis LLP. Now more than ever, with the recent economic downturn, Kirkland — recognizing that the need for civil legal services is particularly acute— has refocused and reenergized its pro bono program, encouraging greater numbers of Kirkland attorneys and staff to serve more pro bono clients.
The firm views pro bono practice as an “opportunity” for its attorneys, and it offers this opportunity to share legal skills and talents to senior partners as well as to the newest associates, including summer associates. Time worked on pro bono matters is valued and evaluated the same as billable work. With outstanding pro bono projects such as a Special Education Clinic in coordination with Equip for Equality, a cross-collaborative Social Security benefits project, and its Ladder Up tax project on the far South Side, to name just a few, Kirkland is often found taking the lead to provide needed pro bono support to the clients of Chicago’s legal aid organizations.
PILI is also particularly eager to shine a light upon Kirkland’s strong and unwavering financial support of the public interest law community. The firm is a true philanthropic leader and the Kirkland & Ellis Foundation has helped hundreds of charitable efforts succeed each and every year since the Foundation’s creation in 1982. Kirkland has been the premiere and principal sponsor of post-graduate PILI Fellows—a distinction the firm has held for as long as the project has been in operation. And this past autumn, Kirkland launched the Kirkland PILI Network, to encourage former Kirkland PILI Fellows to maintain strong connections with their PILI organizations.
Photo: (L to R) Partner, Terrence J. Dee, received the 2009 PILI Pro Bono Initiative on behalf of Kirkland & Ellis LLP from the Honorable Ruben Castillo, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
Photo by: Angela B. Garbot, Photos by Garbot
September/October 2009 Pro Bono Spotlight: Accenture
A deep commitment to corporate citizenship is truly engrained in the culture of Accenture’s Legal Group. In 2004, Accenture established a Legal Corporate Citizenship Committee to impress upon Accenture Legal Professionals that their leadership recognized the importance of, and encouraged participation in, pro bono and other community service activities. The Accenture Legal Group also signed the Corporate Pro Bono Challenge, which encourages at least one-half of its Legal staff to support and participate in, as appropriate, corporate citizenship (pro bono) service. It also encourages the outside law firms with which it works to acknowledge publicly their support for pro bono by becoming signatories to the Pro Bono Institute's Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge.
During 2007 and 2008, Accenture employees company-wide contributed more than 120,000 hours of pro bono services to not-for-profit organizations. Accenture has a strong commitment to corporate citizenship, placing it at the heart of its business and using its skills and capabilities to create shared value with its stakeholders. In fact, its corporate citizenship theme, Skills to Succeed, focuses on building skills that enable people to develop themselves to participate in and contribute to the economy.
Accenture has actively partnered with the law firms that represent the company, both on global projects and local projects. This past year, a team of 50 Accenture lawyers and Baker & McKenzie lawyers from multiple countries wrote a comprehensive research memorandum for an NGO on “Inclusiveness in the Democratic Process in Nepal: A Comparative International analysis of Legal Mechanisms to Deter Discrimination, Foster Societal Inclusiveness, and Promote Education and Literacy.” The cross-border teaming of both Accenture and Baker lawyers is really cutting edge work that has not been done on this scale before. In 2008, Accenture partnered with DLA Piper to send lawyers from multiple countries to teach at the Addis Ababa Law School, the hub of Ethiopia’s legal community. Accenture lawyers taught courses in negotiations at the law school.
In Chicago, the Accenture Legal team has partnered with DLA Piper for the past four years to work with the students of Barry Elementary School in the Chicago Public School system, teaching a program called Lawyers in the Classroom, developed by the Constitutional Rights Foundation covering the basics of constitutional law. The lawyers have specially adapted the Constitutional Rights curriculum to the Barry Elementary students’ needs, and have learned that these fourth, fifth, and sixth graders can engage in these important legal issues and discuss how the law relates to them. Through this curriculum, the students not only further their understanding of the law but also improve their speaking and analytical skills. Since its inception, more than 25 Accenture Legal professionals have participated in this program. It has become so popular that Accenture is going to expand the program to another Chicago Public school this year and also is going to do the same type of program with Legal professionals in its Reston, Virginia office.
Accenture Chicago attorneys also participate in full-day pro bono activities by providing assistance at a senior citizen center, preparing living wills and powers of attorney for health care and property, and they provide legal advice at homeless shelters in Chicago. Accenture Legal professionals also mentor students at Crane High School in Chicago, which focuses on encouraging young minority students to consider entering the legal profession. Additionally, they are teaming on a Law School Externship Program with Chicago area law schools that provide minority externs with the opportunity to work half of the semester at Accenture and the other half at DLA Piper.
This is just a highlight of pro bono and corporate volunteerism in the Accenture Legal group. The group publishes a quarterly newsletter highlighting current Legal corporate citizenship activities and it has an internal website of all opportunities available and contact persons. Finally, the Legal group specifically recognizes the efforts of Legal professionals who volunteer in their annual performance appraisals.
July/August 2009 Pro Bono Spotlight: United Airlines, Inc.
United has a proud tradition of giving back to the communities that we serve. As an airline, we strive to bring people together on a global scale. Through our diverse corporate sponsorships and community partnerships, we keep that sense of connection going long after our guests have reached their final destinations. Every year, United sponsors numerous organizations and events in our hometown of Chicago and in other cities across the country. During the holidays, United employees fill up multiple trucks with donated gifts destined for families in need. Pro bono legal work is a natural extension of this type of service and complements the work of United’s employees who tirelessly give back to their communities.
Three years ago, United’s law division had no formal pro bono policy in place and no process in place to track and recognize the pro bono work undertaken by United’s attorneys. After reviewing best practices at corporate legal departments around Chicago and nationally, and soliciting ideas from our outside counsel, United implemented a written pro bono policy. United believes that every member of the law division is in a position to make valuable contributions through our pro bono program, and therefore we have encouraged, but not required, all attorneys to provide between ten and twenty hours of service annually. Significant pro bono contributions earn recognition from law division leadership.
Today, over fifty percent of the attorneys at United have participated in providing pro bono service, each contributing an average of fifteen hours annually. One of our long-standing partners is the Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago, which offers the opportunity for our attorneys to participate in the Lawyers in the Classroom program. Several attorneys lead elementary and junior high school students, both in Chicago and surrounding suburbs, in meaningful lessons that introduce them to what it means to be a lawyer as well as in practical discussions about the Bill of Rights. Another organization where we concentrate our pro bono service is with Cabrini Green Legal Aid’s Expungement Help Desk at the Daley Center, where on any given morning you might find a United attorney helping someone to expunge or seal their record so they can pass a background check, qualify for a job, or rent an apartment. Finally, many of our attorneys provide valuable advice and counsel to non-profit organizations.
United has benefited from our association with PILI, through its Pro Bono Initiative, which has provided invaluable opportunities that have helped to establish and grow United’s pro bono program. We are excited by opportunities offered by our outside counsel at DLA Piper, Mayer Brown, and Seyfarth Shaw, and hope to leverage those opportunities in the future. For instance, one of our attorneys has partnered with lawyers at DLA Piper on a political asylum case, and has found that very rewarding. Later this year, we are planning to focus on a clinic model where the law division would partner with attorneys from an outside firm for a day to deliver tailored legal services here in Chicago. United is also considering working in tandem with our existing corporate partners to increase the value of those partnerships by delivering needed pro bono services.
May/June 2009 Pro Bono Spotlight:Seyfarth Shaw LLP
In 2007, Seyfarth Shaw’s management made a commitment to reinvigorating the firm’s pro bono program. Since then, the results have been dramatic. For example, in 2006, the firm performed 12,357 hours of pro bono work; that number increased 81% to 22,418 in 2007, and another 34% in 2008 to 30,106, for a two year total increase of 144%. In 2008, Seyfarth Shaw served approximately 580 pro bono clients, which was an increase of 32% over 2007.
The firm’s pro bono matters cover a wide range of topics and practices, including asylum cases, adoptions, divorces, guardian ad litem and other family law matters, prisoner’s rights cases, criminal appeals, intellectual property matters for artists, incorporating and counseling not-for-profit organizations in business, real estate, and employment issues, and staffing legal clinics and hotlines.
Seyfarth’s Managing Partner, J. Stephen Poor, has made clear that pro bono and community service are an important part of the firm’s identity and mission, and people across offices and departments have taken his message to heart and put the firm’s commitment into action. In addition, the firm’s written pro bono policy encourages attorneys to do pro bono and gives associates up to 200 hours of credit towards billable hour goals for pro bono work.
As part of the firm’s commitment, in 2007, the firm hired its first full-time Pro Bono & Philanthropy Partner, Allegra Rich, to manage the firm’s pro bono, charitable giving, and community service programs. Seyfarth forged new relationships with legal aid organizations with which it had not worked with in the past, and the firm also made an effort to strengthen relationships with its existing legal aid partners. Seyfarth also increased its charitable giving to legal aid and looked for creative ways to support organizations that provide legal services to the poor. Recently, in Chicago, the firm donated 22 computers to seven different legal aid providers.
The pro bono program at Seyfarth continues to increase not only in quantity, but in complexity and sophistication of the firm’s pro bono matters. In 2009, the firm submitted its first pro bono amicus brief in the United States Supreme Court in Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder. The firm filed the brief on behalf of a consortium of Asian-American interest groups seeking to demonstrate that certain protections afforded by the Voting Rights Act are still necessary to ensure fair voting procedures. Also in 2009, the firm joined with the ACLU in Southern California to file a multi-plaintiff race discrimination/racial profiling complaint against a local police department. In Chicago, the firm became involved with the Seventh Circuit Pro Bono Program for the first time, and now has appeared in half a dozen pro bono appeals.
Pro Bono Partner Allegra Rich sums it up like this: “We are very proud of our accomplishments over the past several years and the recognition we have received for our progress, but we know that there is still more we could be doing, and we are always looking for ways to improve our program and better serve those in our communities who would not otherwise have access to justice.”
March/April 2009 Pro Bono Spotlight: Jenner & Block
Jenner & Block continues to demonstrate a strong commitment to pro bono service. 100% of Jenner & Block associates and approximately two-thirds of partners devoted at least 20 hours to pro bono work in each of the past two years. In 2008, the Firm’s attorneys contributed over 70,000 hours to pro bono service, and The American Lawyer recognized Jenner & Block as the #1 law firm in the country for pro bono service on its annual “Pro Bono Honor Roll.” Jenner & Block does not concentrate its pro bono work in pre-selected areas, but rather performs a wide range of pro bono work driven by the interests of its lawyers. Below are several noteworthy matters handled by the Firm in the last year:
- Last summer, a team from the Firm led by Partner Lisa T. Scruggs filed a groundbreaking lawsuit on behalf of the Chicago Urban League against the State of Illinois and the State Board of Education, challenging the State’s method for raising and distributing education funds to local school districts and the Illinois State Board of Education’s implementation of the system. The Urban League asserts that the State’s public school funding scheme disparately impacts racial and ethnic minority students who attend Majority-Minority Districts in violation of the Illinois Civil Rights Act of 2003, violates the Uniformity of Taxation provision of the Illinois Constitution, violates students’ rights to attend “high quality educational institution” guaranteed by the Education Article under the Illinois Constitution, and violates students’ right to equal protection under the Illinois Constitution. Ms. Scruggs argued before the court in February 2009 in a hearing to consider the defendants’ motion to dismiss. A ruling on the motion is expected soon.
- In a significant criminal justice victory, Associate Brian J. Fischer and Partner Richard F. Ziegler helped obtain an appellate court reversal in a criminal contempt conviction of a public defender who had refused to defend his client at a criminal trial on a half-day's notice. State of Ohio v. Brian Jones, 2008 Ohio 6994 (2008). The attorneys presented oral arguments in the case and authored an influential amicus brief on behalf of the Fordham Law School's Louis Stein Center for Ethics and Law and numerous other national organizations. The court’s opinion drew considerably from the arguments presented in the Firm's amicus brief in reinforcing important ethical safeguards in the criminal justice system.
- In January 2009, Associate Lindsay C. Harrison had her first argument ever in any court — an argument before the United States Supreme Court in a pro bono asylum case that Ms. Harrison and the Firm had agreed to handle. After Mr. Jean Marc Nken from Cameroon was denied political asylum, Ms. Harrison agreed to handle his appeal to the Fourth Circuit. While that appeal was pending, Ms. Harrison sought a stay of the Board of Immigration Appeals’ order requiring Mr. Nken’s deportation. The Fourth Circuit denied the stay, using a standard of review that Ms. Harrison identified was in conflict with the standard employed in other Circuits. With substantial support from Partners Ian Gershengorn and Jared O. Freedman, Ms. Harrison sought a stay in the Supreme Court, in conjunction with an emergency petition for a writ of certiorari. The Supreme Court granted the writ and the stay, and ordered briefing and argument on an expedited basis. The Supreme Court has not yet issued its decision. The case remains critically important for Mr. Nken, but it now also may affect many other persons who face removal to their countries of origin, often to face persecution or even death, while their cases are pending judicial review in the United States.
Pictured above: Jenner & Block Associate Lindsay C. Harrison on the front steps of the U.S. Supreme Court after her pro bono argument.
January/February 2009 Pro Bono Spotlight: Caterpillar, Inc.
Building upon an 80-year tradition of corporate volunteerism and public service, Caterpillar Inc.’s Legal Services Division recently launched a program that made pro bono activity a permanent part of their corporate culture. Two years ago, Caterpillar established a pilot program after carefully assessing community need, exploring other strong corporate pro bono efforts, and identifying pro bono benchmarks. With this groundwork accomplished and with a pro bono policy and coordinator in place, Caterpillar began implementing three initiatives: a clinic providing living wills and powers of attorney; court representation in family law matters; and counsel for a nonprofit. Immediate and widespread interest emerged at the corporate and community levels, and the enthusiasm of the volunteers exceeded all expectations.
Now, two years after Caterpillar’s Pro Bono Program graduated from its pilot status, the company has successfully replicated its clinic model several times and has developed pro bono service delivery partnerships with numerous outside counsel such as Baker & McKenzie, Howrey, Seyfarth Shaw and Sedgwick Detert, among others. These partnerships have engaged volunteers in pro bono matters nationwide.
On a statewide advocacy level, Caterpillar worked with others in the pro bono community to propose Illinois Supreme Court rule changes, implemented in July of 2008, that permit inactive or retired lawyers, or lawyers admitted as house counsel to provide pro bono legal assistance. Today, other local and national corporate programs look to Caterpillar, as the company shares its experiences in developing as successful pro bono program.
Pictured above: On December 4, 2008, Caterpillar Inc's Chris Dekker accepts 2008 PILI Pro Bono Initiative Award from Allegra Rich, Seyfarth Shaw LLP at the 2008 PILI Annual Awards Luncheon.