Letter From The Chair Of The Social Concerns Committee Of The South/Central Texas Chapter Of The Association Of Corporate Counsel

2007-03-01 00:00

To The Readers Of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel :

Most attorneys know that they have the responsibility to provide pro bono services. In fact, many states are implementing guidelines for the amount of hours an attorney should donate while others are considering implementing a mandatory requirement. For example, Texas is suggesting that each attorney provide 50 hours of pro bono legal work per year.

If an attorney joins a law firm, providing pro bono is generally easier as many law firms have pro bono programs.However, for those attorneys joining an in-house legal department, it becomes more difficult. Some corporate policies prohibit staff from providing outside legal services or if they are able to, attorneys are not covered by malpractice insurance. Also, when an in-house attorney does find a pro bono opportunity, it is often outside of their area of expertise.

This was the challenge the San Antonio Association of Corporate Counsel faced when the Chapter decided to implement its pro bono program. At first, the Chapter was approached by the San Antonio Bar's Community Justice Program (CJP), a well established program that provides legal services such as divorce, wills and other non-contested issues. The Chapter signed up for one event and received some pre-event training. However, even with the training and assistance from "mentoring" attorneys, many ACC Members were not comfortable handling divorces and adoptions. Therefore, for the second year, the Chapter requested transactional cases such as wills, powers of attorney and leases. In addition, the Chapter continues to explore nontraditional pro bono opportunities such as working with Texas C-Bar, an organization that links in-house legal departments with nonprofit corporations. The goal for the Chapter is to continue to provide its in-house members with transactional pro bono opportunities.

Lessons learned:

• Work with a local bar program that provides intake, malpractice insurance and day-to-day management. Request transactional work such as wills or powers of attorney.

• Find mentors. Consider asking outside law firms for assistance. Often, they are happy to help a client and provide their staff with a pro bono opportunity.

• Explore providing services to a nonprofit. If a program is not established, consider requesting that the local bar association set up a program.

• Report your activities. Even if there isn't a formal reporting requirement in your state, publicize the fact that you are providing pro bono work. Whether through a formal program or informally through membership on a church or community board, many in-house attorneys give back to their community. Speak up!

For additional information on the San Antonio Association of Corporate Counsel and the April 17 pro bono event, contact Amber Clark at accasouthcentral@yahoo.com


Ingrid Etienne