JP Morgan Chase: Inspired Partnership With MFY - And More

Wednesday, August 1, 2007 - 01:00

The Editor interviews Mark Segall, Senior Vice President, Associate General Counsel, and Head of Litigation at JP Morgan Chase.

Editor: Can you please tell our readers about your background?

Segall: I have been with JPMorgan Chase and its predecessors for about 17 years Before that I was in private practice. I graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School. Among other things, I have served on the board of MFY Legal Services for over three years and am on the board of the Institute for Legal Reform.

Editor: What in particular caught your interest about MFY Legal Services?

Segall: I have a very long-standing interest in MFY. After the merger of Chase Manhattan and Chemical Bank, a lawyer named Matt Leonard was assigned to my group. Matt had been an intern at MFY and had served on its board for a number of years, eventually rising to be its vice chair and, in fact, the chair of the selection committee which wisely picked Lynn Kelly to be MFY's executive director. Unfortunately, Matt left our group to become the head of litigation for Cantor Fitzgerald and perished on September 11. Some years ago, I made a contribution to MFY, and my friend and MFY board member, David Ichel, called to thank me for the contribution. He also asked me if I would be interested in serving on the board, and I told him I would be very happy to become involved.

Editor: How has JPMorgan Chase been involved in MFY's work in the past?

Segall: JPMorgan Chase has been involved with MFY for a long time, beginning perhaps with Matt's involvement 15 or more years ago. Matt had devoted a lot of time to MFY. I was well aware of this when he worked with me, and I was very supportive of the work he was doing with MFY. About two years ago, we at JPMorgan Chase (and Joan Guggenheimer, our general counsel, in particular) became interested in developing a formal in-house pro bono program. At the same time, Lynn Kelly, the executive director of MFY, came to us regarding our involvement in the Kinship Caregiver Program, which very much interested me. Sadly, Joan passed away last summer, but in her absence (and in her honor) we have continued with the program, and our new general counsel, Steve Cutler, is very supportive of it. We find MFY's programs particularly attractive because they offer opportunities for all of our staff - not just the lawyers - to become involved in pro bono efforts. For instance, we have our staff signed up to work each month at a walk-in clinic for MFY's Kinship Caregiver Project, a program offering legal services to the kin caregivers of abandoned children. We also have a lawyer working on an adoption case involving a child who has been abandoned by her mother. This case is a part of MFY's Pro Bono Adoption Project and just another example of the kind of opportunities provided to us by MFY.

Editor: You sound very enthusiastic about the pro bono work in your department, which is great to hear. How extensive is your pro bono program?

Segall: I believe we have had close to 80 people working on projects since the inception of our program. We have assisted over 20 different national organizations and are making some great efforts to expand overseas. We are getting widespread participation from our employees all over the world, which is encouraging. All of this stems from last fall's formal launch of our pro bono program, which was inspired by and is dedicated to Joan. Jamie Dimon, our chief executive officer, and Steve Cutler, our general counsel, are very supportive of the program,, which has done much to inspire interest in it. Overall, the program fits very well with our corporate goals of serving and giving back to the communities in which we are located and so there is really a lot of enthusiasm about it.

Editor: Does the program operate mainly on an individual level, or are there a lot of institutional partnerships like that which you have with MFY?

Segall: There are many, many organizations with which our lawyers partner. I know individuals have made pro bono efforts in regard to women's causes and to opportunities in the communities where our lawyers are located.. What we want to do is to inspire our lawyers to find some time to give back to the communities. We are trying not to be dictatorial about what specific projects they choose. Obviously there are many worthy causes, so we want to remain flexible.

Editor: How important to JPMorgan Chase is the participation of outside counsel in pro bono work?

Segall: Certainly it is something we care about. We appreciate and are interested when our outside counsel are involved in pro bono cases because such activites could be reflective in some instances of their commitment to the poor and to diversity. On at least one occasion of which I am aware, we have teamed up with outside counsel in a pro bono project. Setting up a clinic required tax expertise that we did not have in our own department, and so we solicited some outside help with that.

Editor: I know that often pro bono focuses solely on litigation, and I am wondering what proportion of your lawyers are actually able to participate in pro bono work?

Segall: We have been focused very hard on trying to find opportunities not just for the litigators. For example, we have had lawyers involved in helping underprivileged people set up businesses. Additionally, you do not particularly have to be a litigator to handle cases for MFY's Kinship Caregiver or Adoption Project. We also undertook a project in Chicago to assist lawful permanent residents in the filing of applications for citizenship. None of the people volunteering there were litigators. The point is that a very large percentage of the projects I see circulated around are not especially geared toward litigators. We do everything we can to encourage participation from all parts of our department. Indeed, the chair of our pro bono committee is not a litigator, which likely helps set an appropriate example and shows that one need not be a litigator to get involved in a program like this.

Editor: Do you have hours that people can work pro bono?

Segall: We do not specify a requirement. When we launched the program, we discussed and aspired to the standard set by the ABA, which I believe is 50 pro bono hours per year. We are not measuring people against that, but we actively encourage pro bono work.

Editor: This is very exciting to hear. Do you see similar programs at other companies?

Segall: We do see other examples. Some companies are ahead of us on pro bono efforts, and I think their examples of how this kind of program can be run effectively have served us well. One of the things we did when we formed our program was to talk to some of our brethren in corporate America and learn from their example. Pfizer, for example, has been extremely active in this area. In fact, last year MFY awarded Pfizer its annual Matthew G. Leonard Award for Pro Bono Achievement. I said at the launch of our program that I would be very honored one day if JPMorgan Chase were to receive that award. Like I have said, I think it is really terrific when a corporation like Pfizer, and hopefully someday a corporation like ours, can be honored for pro bono service.