Benchmarking In-House Pro Bono: CPBO Challenge Hits 10-Year Milestone

Topics: Access to Justice, Client Relations, Corporate Legal, Government, Leadership, Pro Bono

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At the urging of chief legal officers, Corporate Pro Bono (CPBO) launched the Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® initiative in 2006. A unique effort to encourage, promote, and benchmark in-house pro bono, the CPBO Challenge® initiative sets an aspirational goal of engaging 50% of a department’s legal staff in pro bono legal services. At the time CPBO launched the initiative, formalized in-house pro bono programs were relatively new but many law department leaders understood the value of pro bono services, the role such service plays in ensuring access to justice, and the responsibility and privilege lawyers and legal staff have to use their skills to serve communities in need. These leaders also understood the importance of creating a uniform, industry-wide measure. As the saying goes, “What gets measured gets done.”

 

This year, the CPBO Challenge® initiative celebrates its 10th anniversary. During the past 10 years, the initiative has become the industry standard, with nearly 150 signatories from organizations that provide pro bono service in more than 44 countries. CPBO Challenge® signatories range in terms of size, industry and location, but they all share a common commitment — to improve access to justice. Two examples are The Clorox Company and Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

The Clorox Company

In 2006, The Clorox Company’s Executive Vice President and General Counsel Laura Stein
introduced a formal pro bono program to her legal department and became the first chief legal officer to commit to the CPBO Challenge® initiative. “In just a few short weeks after the program started, staff comments shifted from a nervous ‘What’s this?’ to an enthusiastic ‘What’s next!’” says Adam Brink, trademark counsel and pro bono coordinator at Clorox. In the decade since, Clorox’s pro bono participation has grown to meet the aspirational goal set forth in the CPBO Challenge® statement — 50% of all U.S. legal staff provide pro bono legal services. Clorox focuses on the legal needs of the community surrounding its headquarters in Oakland, California. Pro bono projects include opportunities that allow Clorox attorneys and staff to work in areas of both interest and expertise, such as assisting victims of domestic violence obtain restraining orders, helping local artists with intellectual property issues, and aiding low-income residents in housing disputes through a negotiation clinic.

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Hewlett Packard Enterprise

A more recent CPBO Challenge® signatory, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) is a new company with a long history of pro bono. One of the companies resulting from the split of the Hewlett-Packard Company (HP) in 2014, HPE is dedicated to carrying on HP’s great work in pro bono. “We strongly encourage our attorneys and staff to do pro bono work and stress its importance and lasting impact on the clients we serve,” former HP and current HPE Executive Vice President and General Counsel John Schultz has said. HPE engages more than 50% of its global team in pro bono legal services in 20 countries on projects that include litigation, research, education and transactional pro bono. In the U.S., HPE’s signature project focuses on assisting veterans through a collaborative and innovative set of projects.

A Milestone for In-House Pro Bono

To commemorate the anniversary of the CPBO Challenge® initiative and the good work of the signatories, CPBO, the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC), and the Pro Bono Institute (PBI) have a variety of celebrations planned and are encouraging departments who are not signatories to sign up.

While great advances have been made, more work still needs to be done. As we celebrate the tremendous effort of the CPBO Challenge® initiative signatories over the past 10 years, we look forward to greater advances in years to come!