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Pro bono contributions as a department or on an individual lawyer basis

A profile in the Nat. Law J., April 10, 2007 of Gregory Bower, the general counsel of the US’s Government Printing Office touched on the difference between a departmentally sanctioned form of pro bono and forms that a lawyer takes on personally. “As a federal agency, the GPO doesn’t engage in pro bono work. Bower points out, however, that he encourages his lawyers “to engage in pro bono work on an individual basis and as allowed by federal law.”

Some law departments commit, as an entire law department, to support a pro bono activity (See my posts of Feb. 11, 2007 on the distinction between pro bono and public service; Feb. 25, 2007 on Exelon’s contributions; and May 7, 2006 on Computer Associates’ efforts.). For the legal departments of US government agencies, the distinction between departmental support and personal support is crucial. For private corporations, I doubt there is a similar divide.