Pro Bono Partnership Announces 2006 Volunteer Awards

Thursday, March 1, 2007 - 01:00

The Pro Bono Partnership has announced its 2006 Volunteers of the Year - in-house counsel and members of the private bar who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to the Partnership's clients, nonprofit organizations that provide services primarily to poor and disadvantaged communities. The 2006 Volunteers of the Year are the legal departments of Boehringer Ingelheim, Honeywell International Inc. and Johnson & Johnson; the law firm of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, and individual attorneys Yee-Min Gan of GE Commercial Finance, Debra A. Shelinsky Greene of Merck & Co., and George N. Nichols of The Ferguson Library in Stamford, CT.

"Without the services of the Partnership," said Executive Director Rick Hobish, "many nonprofits would have to choose between sacrificing funds for critical programs and making important business decisions without legal counsel. By leveraging the pro bono services of outstanding business and transactional attorneys, like our Volunteers of the Year, we can provide the legal advice nonprofits need, preserve their program funds and help them strengthen the safety net they provide for our communities."

Mr. Hobish points to the work done this year for the Partnership itself by Orrick, one of many examples of leveraging resources. Several Orrick attorneys volunteered hundreds of hours to update the Partnership's on-line employment manual, an extensive, free resource on employment law for tri-state nonprofits accessible on the Partnership's website.

Volunteer of the Year Honeywell International is one of several corporations that originally invited the Partnership to expand its program into New Jersey in 2001. "The Partnership has been instrumental in enabling Honeywell lawyers to support the community," said Peter Kreindler, senior vice president and general counsel, Honeywell. "Our lawyers volunteer their time and expertise from M&A to labor to intellectual property to advise tri-state non-profits on a diverse range of projects so these charities can focus on providing the important services they deliver in all of our communities."

As one recent example, Honeywell assisted The Learning Circle of Summit, NJ, a non-profit childcare center for working families, in its merger with the Summit Area YMCA.

"It truly was an historic combining, a win for both organizations, the community and working families," said Lisa Grattan, Esq., president of the board of The Learning Circle at the time of the merger.

Ron Spielberger, director and senior division counsel at Boehringer Ingelheim and director of pro bono efforts, thinks no organization should have to handle legal matters on its own just because they cannot afford an attorney.

"I am proud to be part of a company that emphasizes the importance of giving back and helping others in less fortunate circumstances," Mr. Spielberger said. "Over the last year, we have put our legal expertise to good use, not only for the corporation, but for the surrounding communities as well."

Sandee Martensen, executive director of the Pinwheel Project in Bedford, NY, which provides practical and emotional support to hospitalized children and their families, agreed, citing the example of Marla Persky, Boehringer's general counsel, who recently advised Pinwheel concerning liability protection.

Debra Shelinsky Greene, counsel at Merck & Co., specializes in Trademark and Copyright matters. "I am able to practice in my area of expertise and, at the same time, provide assistance to nonprofits helping individuals in need," she said. "And, the Partnership's staff makes the process run smoothly."

"I am thrilled," reported Karen Carbonello, president of the Morris Plains, NJ-based Creative Heartwork, a client of Ms. Shelinsky Greene's which uses the arts to help heal children who have serious physical or emotional challenges.

Yee-Min Gan, regional counsel/compliance officer for GE Commercial Finance, who recently transferred to Hong Kong, even worked during a trip to England on behalf of one client, the Westchester Institute for Human Development, which assists individuals with developmental disabilities and their families.

"She emailed back and forth to our bank to help complete the paperwork to get us our line of credit," wrote WIHD President Dr. Ansley Bacon. "And then, she accompanied us to the closing at the bank! She was a partner in all our efforts."

George Nichols, director of human resources and general counsel at The Ferguson Library, stated, "Volunteering with the Partnership has allowed me to make a contribution to many important not-for-profit agencies that serve the Fairfield County [CT] community where I have lived all my life and practiced law for the past 40 years," he said.

Patrick Grogan, associate director of Northwest New Jersey Community Action Program (NORWESCAP) which provides cost-effective, coordinated services to low-income people in six New Jersey counties, recently contacted Partnership Deputy Director Nancy Eberhardt to praise the work of Lisa Warren, assistant general counsel at Johnson & Johnson. Ms. Warren had provided harassment training, Mr. Grogan said. "Lisa's presentation was highly professional in style and content, and she even gave me an electronic copy of her Power Point so I can keep it up to date and use it for future in-house training."

Johnson & Johnson is the first corporation to be named Volunteer of the Year twice.

"Let me be so bold as to suggest that those of us who engage in pro bono activity do so because there is a reward - the gratification of knowing we've helped to make others' lives a little better in some small way," said Tracy Poole, assistant general counsel at J&J, "and it's also an opportunity to use the talents and gifts we've been blessed with. It just feels right."

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