The Best of the Profession: Pro Bono at the PBI Annual Conference

Topics: Access to Justice, Corporate Legal, Law Firms, Midsize Law Firms Blog Posts, Pro Bono, Women’s Leadership Blog Posts

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Later this month, the Pro Bono Institute (PBI) will host a unique event, convening pro bono leaders from law firms, legal departments and public interest organizations from around the globe to discuss some of the most pressing issues involving access to justice and pro bono legal services. For three days, hundreds will gather in Washington, D.C. to learn, share, challenge and further the efforts of law firms and legal departments committed to improving their communities through pro bono legal services.

The subject matter to be addressed at the PBI Annual Conference on March 23-25 highlights critical problems and innovative solutions to access to justice:

Addressing a Global Mass Migration Crisis

A headline story in most newspapers, nearly 60 million people are currently displaced from their homes by war and persecution — more than at any time since World War II – and half are children. Lawyers and their colleagues can play a unique role by providing a variety of pro bono legal services that save lives and protect refugees. Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, along with pro bono leaders from two nonprofits, HIAS and PILnet, will focus on the work they and pro bono volunteers have done to address this crisis, which includes representing asylum seekers in matters before the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, as well as provide country updates and discuss emerging issues, obstacles, strategies and developments.

Justice Deserts

Communities without access to healthy foods are often referred to as “food deserts.” The same concept could apply to communities facing steep barriers to access to justice. These “justice deserts” result not only from a lack of access to affordable counsel, but also language and cultural barriers, as well as other obstacles such as age, education and physical ability.

Pro bono

Attorneys are tackling such barriers a variety of ways, such as working with translators and social workers, bussing in pro bono attorneys to remote locations, and utilizing technology to overcome geographic and other physical limitations. Attendees at the Conference will hear from lawyers at 3M, and two public interest organizations, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest and OneJustice, who will detail their efforts to address this unique gap in legal services.

Representing Children and Adolescents

Children and adolescents are among the most vulnerable members in our society, without the means to hire counsel and often unable to advocate for themselves. Their legal needs are numerous, including securing special education, defending against increasing penalties and criminalization of behavior at school, and addressing basic legal needs when aging out of foster care, such as negotiating a lease. Lawyers from Baker & McKenzie, The Walt Disney Company, and the National Juvenile Defender Center will share the experience of cutting edge and replicable collaborations between law firms, legal departments and public interest organizations focused on children’s rights and helping homeless youth and children in foster care, as well as projects representing families in creating forever families through adoption.

The work discussed and developed at the PBI Annual Conference highlights the many incredible efforts of law departments and firms, who come together with public interest organizations, to improve access to justice in communities around the globe.

To read more about cutting edge pro bono programming, we invite you to review PBI’s blog, the PBEye, which includes best practices in pro bono and will highlight learning from this year’s PBI Annual Conference.