Friday, January 30, 2015

The Pro Bono In-House Counsel of Tomorrow

Over the last decade, in-house pro bono has been a growing trend among corporations, including Fortune 100 companies, and for good reason.  Pro bono legal work has proven to be, not only an essential form of public service, but an investment in the future of innovation and professional development. By committing a fraction of their time and resources, corporate employees have inspired youth in technology-oriented fields, helped young women acquire the skills they need to become professionals, and aided veterans in transitioning to the civilian workforce.

This past year, The Walt Disney Company set the bar for the entertainment industry. The Association for Corporate Counsel recognized Disney with the 2014 Pro Bono award for assisting low-income clients, children in need of families, and the development of teen courts. Disney Senior Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary Alan Braverman said, “We are determined to do our part to ensure people have the opportunity to pursue their rights, and that our system of justice is truly available to all.” The company utilized Public Counsel, the United States’ largest pro-bono law firm, to coach Disney lawyers on the adoption process. The collective group helped guide several adoptions through the L.A. county court system. Disney Legal’s mission is to help “more than 30,000 children, youth, families and community organizations every year.”

Disney, and other corporations, have proven that the terms “corporate profit” and “public service” can be interchangeable. Corporate counsels have the resources, but are they devoting them? Many companies are allocating resources, and corporate giving has increased 64% in the last few years. This is encouraging. Of course, the ultimate payout from pro bono legal work is much harder to pinpoint. Corporations that do not already do so should be encouraged to follow Disney’s lead.

Riley Coltrin (Staff Editor, Denver SELJ)