The goodly scope of pro bono projects

A legal department that encourages its members to provide pro bono services undoubtedly can find an infinite number of outlets. Perhaps a general counsel needs to set out some guidelines; perhaps it is more in the spirit of public service to let people decide how they will help others. In any event, some guidelines are usually needed as to what is a recognized pro bono activity.

A piece in Met. Corp. Counsel, Vol. 16, Aug. 2008 at 45, explains that the legal department of Boehringer Ingelheim is currently “re-interpreting the scope of pro bono to include other legal/regulatory-related matters, including providing advice on records retention issues, regulation involving the handling of hazardous wastes in school chemistry labs, serving as moot court judges and participating in civics classes.”

How widely should a general counsel define “pro bono”?

Law Department Management Blog has several entries about pro bono services by law departments (See my post of Sept. 10, 2005: thoughts on pro bono commitments by law departments; Oct. 29, 2006: a neurological basis for feeling good from pro bono; Feb. 11, 2007: compared to public service; Feb. 11, 2007: ACC’s Seventh Annual Chief Legal Officer Survey on pro bono; March 23, 2008: serve as a moot court judge; and April 17, 2007: pro bono services as a department or as an individual.).

Several posts discuss the programs of specific companies (See my post of May 7, 2006: Computer Associates, morale and pro bono; May 4, 2007: Marriott’s offerings; Feb. 5, 2007: Excelon’s offerings; and Aug. 24, 2008: Boehringer Ingelheim’s survey regarding pro bono.).

Law departments are sometimes aware of or try to influence the pro bono contributions of the law firms they retain (See my post of Dec. 3, 2006: departments do not tell law firms which pro bono projects to undertake; and Jan. 30, 2006: attributes for outside counsel selection.).

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