Partnerships among corporate legal departments, nonprofit organizations and
outside counsel are among the best ways for in-house counsel to pursue pro bono
projects. These arrangements open doors to new projects and allow them to share
resources to make them happen. For example, an in-house counsel may not have the
necessary background to take on an asylum or criminal case. Partnerships allow
for training programs and for participants to divide a project so that they can
take on those aspects of the case that they are most qualified to handle.
Working together outside of the attorney-client setting is often beneficial to
long-term relationships among in-house counsel and their law firm counterparts.
One example of how these arrangements can work is the immigration
naturalization clinic undertaken by Abbott Laboratories, Baker & McKenzie
and Midwest Immigrant & Human Rights Center (MIHRC). "We are proud to be
leading the way in pro bono partnering. Working as a team with client Abbott
Laboratories, we were able to leverage our experience in immigration law to make
an impact in the community in which we live and work," commented Baker &
McKenzie's managing partner, John Conroy, Jr. as he described how their working
relationship with Abbott enabled the program to work.
Teaming of these
three Chicago-based organizations flourished with encouragement from the Public
Interest Initiative as well as conversations with CorporateProBono.Org (CPBO), a
national outreach organization co-sponsored by the Association of Corporate
Counsel and the Pro Bono Institute. Nima Rowhani, Project Director at
CorporateProBono.org, explained, "We were delighted to be at the right place at
the right time to help put corporate counsel's commitment to public service into
Contributing legal services to MIHRC taps into Abbott
Laboratories historic commitment to working with the underserved in their
community and builds on their relationship with Baker & McKenzie. "Abbott
Laboratories benefits from a diverse workforce that contributes to its position
in the global marketplace," observed Jose de Lasa, Senior Vice President,
Secretary and General Counsel of Abbott Laboratories. "Helping immigrants to
navigate through the naturalization process helps to broaden the pool of talent
available in this country. But, the real magic that contributes to the program's
success comes from our friendship with Baker & McKenzie and MIHRC's pledge
to improve the lives of Chicago's immigrants."
Logistically, the program
has been set up in a way that taps into each participant's strengths and applies
them where they are needed most. Clients are initially screened by MIHRC, which
has extensive experience on initial client intake and on selecting which clients
are best suited for the naturalization clinic. At the same time, attorneys from
Baker & McKenzie's immigration section train volunteers from Abbott
Laboratories on the naturalization process. Once training is complete, Abbott
volunteers are ready to work one-on-one with applicants. Baker & McKenzie's
attorneys then review the INS paperwork before it is sent out.
program's impact has been tremendous. In 2002, Baker & McKenzie hosted two
Saturday naturalization clinics in which 16 applicants were counseled. To date,
four have already been granted citizenship. "It is rewarding to work with the
applicants and help them achieve their dreams of becoming American citizens,"
stated Mr. de Lasa.
CorporateProBono.Org recognized the impact that the
naturalization clinics have had on Chicago's immigrant community by awarding
Baker & McKenzie, MIHRC and Abbott Laboratories with the Pro Bono Partner
Award in 2003.
For more information on CorporateProBono.Org or
partnership arrangements, visit www.cpbo.org
or call (202) 662-9669.
Jairo G. Cano, is an intern and third-year law student
at Seton Hall University School of Law.