In 2008, LWOB reconfigured its PBLL (Pro Bono Law Link) program from a mere “pairing” or “matching” model to a program that provided an array of engagement options and robust opportunities for all kinds of in-house lawyers and firm partners, associates and paralegals who wanted to engage in pro bono. Those projects range from trial observation, trial advocacy training, participation in or conduct of UN workshops and panels, conference participation and drafting, technical assistance, drafting training materials and white papers and, last but not least, conducting legal research.
The “supporting relationship” seeks financial contributions from the collaborative law firm and corporate partners committed to sustaining pro bono and the rule of law. Annual donations made by our supporting partners are the pillars that ensure LWOB’s independence and foundational underpinnings. The expectation is that as the relationship with the partner grows, the financial support will climb in proportion to the engagement with LWOB, with LWOB creating and managing bespoke pro bono opportunities that fit well with the firm’s own pro bono wants and needs. In 2019, the firms’ combined annual operational support is expected to reach $400,000.
The PBLL model is like no other. It is not a clearinghouse or matching agency. Rarely will LWOB hand off an opportunity to a firm that wasn’t framed for the firm by LWOB, and/or managed and overseen by LWOB during firm engagement.
The LWOB model is frequently one that develops programming and fields proposals designed to underwrite the hard costs of LWOB-developed and managed projects. In each “project” portions are carved out that are resourced through pro bono hours of lawyers, usually from the big-law or magic-circle law firms. In a 3rd party funded project, the “pro bono” aspect is treated as a “cost-share” component that adds exponentially to the program’s financial resources at no cost to the funder. Typically, those projects also have components reserved for the independent, solo, judge or lawyer with a specialty or niche area of expertise. Those carve-outs often involve in-country field work that supports the objectives of the larger research or training project.
LWOB frames the projects and describes lawyer involvement in detailed “Task Memos” which spell out the project overview, the details of the task, the numbers of lawyers estimated to complete the task and an estimated projected timetable. The tasking usually provides examples/samples and templates of prior similar product that provides clear guidance as to the form and extent of the task being described. LWOB meets with the lawyers regularly via video feed, telephone or in person to ensure that contact is regular and support forthcoming at every stage of the work.
Except in the most unusual circumstances (highly technical guidance) usually warranted by the nature of the work, the LWOB model almost never involves a simple hand-over of a project to a law firm.
LWOB can deliver projects to firms who wish to “own” the entire project with no other firms involved, or for very large scale or costly work, assemble collaboratives from among its law firm partners that distributes the time and cost involved.
REFERRAL OF NGOs SEEKING COUNSEL:
While initially the LWOB PBLL model involved linking law firms to non-profits seeking pro bono counsel, LWOB found that often, despite intense efforts to vet the NGOs, many lack the consistency of commitment to the lawyer/client relationship required to make it effective and productive for both lawyer and client. LWOB, therefore, continues to provide this service for NGOs who demonstrate the ability to be cooperative and responsive clients, but no longer provides web-dependent NGO linkage to Law Firm services. Typically, LWOB will be approached by NGOs who share consultative status at the United Nations and after developing a relationship with those NGOs, (and requiring them to successfully navigate several “hoops” before referral to a firm) LWOB will seek representation for them from among its (LWOB’s) law firm partners and supporters.
The LWOB model has been termed by some a “pay to play” model. We take serious issue with this phrase. Facilitating large-scale law firm and lawyer social responsibility in the form of pro bono work is a challenging undertaking for the profession, the firm, and LWOB. We are comfortable that the firms with whom we work value the extent of LWOB’s oversight, experience and guidance brought to each project and that they and their lawyers appreciate the creative approach we bring to pro bono and rule of law.
If you are a law firm, corporation or legal network interested in the LWOB model and its mission as well as in broadening the pro bono oriented activities for your lawyers, please contact LWOB’s founder and director, Christina Storm, directly.