Letter From The President Of The Austin Chapter Of The Association Of Corporate Counsel America

2007-09-01 00:00

To The Readers Of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel:

Sometimes it seems difficult to find opportunities to engage in pro bono service as an in-house corporate lawyer. There are, however, many rewarding opportunities for in-house lawyers to help people in the community through pro bono legal work. Pro bono organizations provide case screening, resources, and other assistance to make it feasible for corporate attorneys to help out. Also, remember that law firms are usually more than happy to work with in-house lawyers to collaborate on pro bono cases.

One great source of information is the Corporate Pro Bono Organization (CBPO). CBPO, a joint project of the Association of Corporate Counsel and the Pro Bono Institute, serves as a resource for in-house lawyers and legal departments providing online services, technical assistance, outreach materials, and consultation services to volunteers. The CPBO website (www.cpbo.org) is a great place to get started if you are an in-house lawyer looking for legal pro bono volunteer opportunities in your area, wondering how to start a pro bono program in your legal department, or looking for quick answers to commonly asked questions about in-house pro bono.

Below are some specific local opportunities that may be of interest. Feel free to contact Violetta Baczewski, the Austin ACC Chapter Administrator, at acca@austin.rr.com if you are interested in more information on pro bono opportunities in the Austin area.

1. VLS (Volunteer Legal Servies) Clinics: At these clinics, low-income Central Texans with a wide variety of legal problems receive free legal advice. Volunteer lawyers provide basic legal advice and intake services so that a Legal Aid or other lawyer can be assigned to take the case. No specialized legal knowledge is required.

In Austin, VLS holds legal advice clinics on Monday and Wednesday evenings at local middle schools and can use volunteers almost every Monday and Wednesday. There are always experienced Clinic lawyers willing to mentor a new person. The Clinic is a great way to spend a couple hours giving indigent people general legal advice and performing intake, with no follow-up obligations at all.As one example of how some of our members participate, in-house volunteers from Dell partner with lawyers from a local law firm to cover the VLS Clinic the third Wednesday of each month from 6-8:30 p.m. at Webb Middle School, near I-35 and St. John's. They invite others to join them. The best training is really just pairing with someone who's done it!In fact, the next clinic will be held on September 19. If you are interested in participating on the 19th, or at any future session, Marc Vockell (marc_vockell@dell.com), from Dell's Community Involvement Committee has agreed to serve as a contact point for anyone seeking more information about participating. You can also see www.vlsoct.org for more information.

2. Texas C-Bar: This is a great opportunity for transactional lawyers to assist non-profit organizations with a variety of legal issues. See www.texascbar.org.

3. Child Protective Services cases: Travis County judges are looking for attorneys to assist with CPS cases.

4. Texas Accountants and Lawyers for the Arts: You can help provide legal assistance for "starving artists," such as musicians, writers, and theaters. This is a great opportunity for transactional and IP lawyers. For more info, you can visit www.talarts.org.

There are, of course, many other types of pro bono work available. One of the best ways to get involved is to have a law firm attorney partner with you as they have the forms, resources, and staff to assist with some of the document work that corporate attorneys might not have the resources to do in-house. Pro bono opportunities are a great way to give back to the community and to attain a renewed sense of pride in your ability, as a lawyer, to help others through a challenging matter.


Jennifer Wuamett