In-house legal teams provide a unique perspective within the pro bono community. As experts in corporate risk and resilience, they are well-suited to consider the organizational and governance needs of civil society organizations (CSOs). Yet in-house professionals in many countries also face a number of challenges when it comes to taking on pro bono matters, such as inability to represent clients directly, law society restrictions, and malpractice insurance coverage, to name a few.
PILnet aims to overcome these obstacles by promoting and coordinating pro bono opportunities for in-house legal teams, leveraging its wide network of partners to identify suitable projects and connect like-minded organizations.
Below is a snapshot of some of PILnet’s activities and further information of how in-house legal professionals can get involved.
PILnet’s four clearinghouses — focused on Asia, Europe, global matters, and refugee needs — help CSOs identify their legal needs, providing them with access to free legal assistance from highly qualified legal professionals. In 2020, PILnet’s clearinghouses provided direct assistance to 164 organizations in nearly 50 jurisdictions across the globe, actively engaging lawyers from a wide variety of corporations and law firms. To allow for maximum impact, PILnet can help facilitate customized, strategic partnerships between CSOs, in-house legal teams, and law firms, depending on their expertise, interest areas, and capacity. In-house teams have successfully partnered with law firms on a variety of projects, including legal research, organizational risk management, and legal training, to name just a few. Interested lawyers may sign up for one or more of PILnet’s clearinghouse mailing lists and express interest in matters on an ongoing basis.
Together with the Association of Corporate Pro Bono (ACPB), PILnet coordinates a quarterly series of roundtables for in-house counsel interested in pro bono. The meetings, which occur in two time zones to accommodate participants around the world, feature discussions about doing pro bono, the constraints and opportunities for engaging in projects, challenges during times like the global pandemic, and the potential for shared learning and collaborative work. They provide an opportunity for the in-house community to share their perspective on the current pro bono landscape and ways to get involved. In-house legal professionals can sign up to the mailing list via this online form to learn more about upcoming events.
PILnet serves as the Secretariat of the Hong Kong Pro Bono Roundtable, which was created in 2014 to connect, activate, and coordinate pro bono lawyers from law firms and in-house legal teams in Hong Kong to maximize the impact of their efforts, such as by mobilizing legal services, organizing joint interventions, and building a pro bono community. The Roundtable has a member network of over 160 lawyers, representing more than 80 institutions, including attorneys from law firms, law school professors, NGO representatives, and in-house counsel. Hong Kong-based legal professionals can sign up to the mailing list by writing to [email protected].
In addition to running our clearinghouses, PILnet provides resources and tools to help CSOs identify existing and potential legal and risk management needs and become more resilient. For example, in response to the COVID-19 epidemic, PILnet and its partners developed a series of webinars, virtual clinics, and fact sheets covering topics such as contracts, liability, employment, cybersecurity, and data privacy. In-house teams are particularly suited to this type of pro bono work, given their focus on managing and mitigating legal risks. Interested professionals are welcome to get involved and can contact the PILnet team to find out more.
Because pro bono lawyering is still in an early phase of development in many parts of the world, particularly with regard to in-house legal teams, PILnet helps to raise awareness of pro bono and its benefits through workshops and training for interested legal practitioners. These events equip legal teams with the skills and knowledge to support civil society and the communities they serve. PILnet also organizes “lunch and learn” events and pro bono 101 training for lawyers new to pro bono, which can also be provided virtually around the world. PILnet can offer assistance to in-house teams looking to set up or expand their pro bono practice, including resources for aligning pro bono with your company’s CSR goals. Please contact PILnet for more information.
Since 2017, PILnet has worked with law students in Hong Kong in various ways, including hosting the Law for Change Student Competition, designed to challenge law students to develop projects that address social justice issues in Hong Kong. Legal practitioners from both in-house and law firm backgrounds have the opportunity to become involved in our student work by acting as legal mentors to student teams for future competitions.
The annual PILnet Global Forum is the premier gathering place for pro bono and public interest lawyers from around the world. Held in a different city each year, and online in 2020 and 2021, the forum connects hundreds of legal professionals from in-house teams, law firms, law schools, bar associations, and CSOs to exchange ideas and build partnerships across sectors and locales. Each forum includes dedicated meetings for the in-house community, to discuss topics of interest and provide networking opportunities. The 2022 Global Forum will take place in Dublin in October.
PILnet is building a network of pro bono lawyers that are interested in supporting victims of trafficking, as well as refugees and others forcibly displaced. Legal teams, including in-house professionals, may join training and roundtables with CSOs, as well as provide pro bono assistance to CSOs working with these populations. Pro bono assistance may for example include legal research, legal training, or assistance with operational matters, as well as non-legal support.
If you are interested in getting involved in any of the activities described above, please contact PILnet: