With interest in pro bono work increasing among in-house counsel, many corporations want to start a formal program but lack institutional knowledge around how to do so. This need is now being addressed in the New York tri-state area by the Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Coordinators (CCPBC) and their website, developed and maintained in partnership with Pro Bono Net and the New York City Bar Justice Center.
Inspired by a similar initiative developed by their private law firm counterparts (www.probono.net/lawfirmprobono), a group of in-house counsel from area companies, including American Express, CA, Inc., Citigroup, Hachette, The New York Times Company, TIAA-Cref, and Wyeth, came together to form the CCPBC, which works to provide a forum for those interested in the administration and coordination of pro bono work by corporate counsel. The new CCPBC website provides in-house lawyers with resources including advice on establishing in-house programs; sample policies and forms; and suggestions about ways to find opportunities, partner with law firms, screen for conflicts and investigate suitable projects. The site also includes a listserv for attorneys who function as their companies’ pro bono coordinators, as well as news of interest to this community and a calendar of events.
“More and more corporate counsel are focusing on internal pro bono programs, ways to integrate pro bono work into their day and the utility and importance of pro bono work,” said Madeleine Schachter, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel at Hachette Book Group USA and Chair of the CCPBC Executive Committee. “We’ve been trying to serve as a resource for in-house counsel as they explore issues and develop policies.”
The Association of Corporate Counsel (Greater New York Chapter) recognized these efforts in September, when it selected CCPBC as one of two recipients of its Pro Bono Award. The Association noted that CCPBC had become “an important resource” as more corporations seek to establish pro bono programs. The website provides a strong regional compliment to ACC's own Corporate Pro Bono website (www.cpbo.org), developed in partnership with the Pro Bono Institute.
Todd Baskin, Managing Director & Associate General Counsel, Bank of America Corporation and a CCPBC Executive Committee member, agrees with this assessment. “As a pro bono coordinator for Bank of America, I often use the CCPBC site as a resource,” he said. “The various forms located in the Library section of the site have been particularly useful.”
CCPBC was initially formed in 2006. “It started with discussion that in-house pro bono coordinators should have same kind of network to speak with each other as law firm coordinators have,” said Carol Bockner, Director of Pro Bono Initiatives for the New York City Bar Justice Center and a member of the CCPBC Executive Committee.
At the time the City Bar Justice Center had been working with several large corporations to start in-house programs. “It occurred to us that if we could bring a group of people together then we could reach all the companies out there that may be thinking of this but may not have any idea about writing a pro bono policy for in-house counsel,” Bockner explained.
In addition to maintaining the website, CCPBC is involved in planning events such as a recent program on international pro bono opportunities. “We’re in the process of exploring upcoming programs, including one in the spring that will discuss models for partnering by in-house and outside counsel,” Schachter said. The group is also working on additional development of the website and on “continued and expanded assistance by the CCPBC Executive Committee as a resource to assist in-house counsel as they develop programs or expand existing pro bono work within their companies,” she said.
Corporate counsel interested in pro bono can get involved by joining the CCPBC practice area at http://www.probono.net/ny/corporatecounsel.
Bockner, along with the rest of the Executive Committee, is hopeful that the site’s membership will continue to grow. “Insofar as we can increase the number of people doing pro bono we’re very happy, and anxious to take every opportunity to increase the amount of pro bono being done and the number of underprivileged people being served,” she said.