Private thoughts on pro-bono publico

Pro bono services by in-house counsel get relatively little publicity (with the notable exception of periodic issues of the Metropolitan Corporate Counsel). Without much experience with pro-bono programs, my ruminations ran to these:

(1) Should in-house counsel be expected to contribute free services in the same proportion that private practitioners do (or should)? I think so, because the privilege of being admitted to the Bar brings with it an equivalent responsibility for helping out others without adequate means.

(2) Should a general counsel control permitting department lawyers to do pro-bono service, or should it be a right they have? I think that the decision should be that of the individual lawyer, not something they must obtain permission for, so long as they meet the requirements of their job.

(3) Should there be any expectation or requirement that the pro-bono services complement the day job of the lawyer? I think not; to the contrary, pro-bono work gives people an opportunity to stretch and to work in an area that has personal meaning to them, such as geriatric law.

(4) Does the degree of pro-bono involvement by its lawyers make any difference to law department efficiency? I doubt it, but it might help keep good lawyers who have an outlet for a felt need.

(5) Should pro-bono legal activities of an in-house lawyer be of any concern to a law department if the activities are done outside of normal work hours? No, I believe an employee has the right to spend their personal time as they see fit.

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