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Illinois and In-House Pro Bono

The Pro Bono Wire
October 30, 2013

Illinois continues to be cutting edge with regard to in-house pro bono. On the heels of amending its practice rules to remove unnecessary restrictions on registered in-house counsel providing pro bono legal services to those in need, the in-house community, led by ACC Chicago, joined with Corporate Pro Bono and DLA Piper*† to host an event dedicated to in-house pro bono. Held on October 11 at DLA Piper’s office in Chicago and broadcast online to in-house counsel around the state, the event included a panel discussion on the ethics of in-house pro bono and offered time for attendees to network with colleagues and representatives from local public interest organizations.

Thomas J. Sabatino, Jr., then-ACC Board Chair and executive vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary of Walgreen Co.**, and Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride welcomed the attendees to the program.

Sabatino noted that in July of last year, he and Chief Justice Kilbride met at the 2012 Conference of Chief Justices where Sabatino spoke to a committee of chief justices about amending multijurisdictional practice rules that unnecessarily restrict in-house pro bono participation. The Conference adopted a resolution in support of these changes, and, within a year, Chief Justice Kilbride and the other members of the Illinois Supreme Court issued an order amending the state’s practice rules.

“[T]hroughout my career in-house, one of the key issues that arises is can we participate in pro bono? How do we participate in pro bono?” Sabatino said. “For me, it has always been part of the DNA of lawyers to give back…. It is part of our ethical obligations and our moral obligations to give back.” Chief Justice Kilbride echoed Sabatino’s sentiments and spoke about the important role pro bono legal services plays in fulfilling the aims of the U.S. Constitution and promoting access to justice. He also commented on the immense need for pro bono work particularly now when the demand for legal services is so great and legal aid organizations are stretched thin.

Chief Justice Kilbride and Sabatino then joined Traci Braun, associate general counsel at Exelon Corporation**, Peter Lindau, assistant general counsel at DLA Piper, and Eve Runyon, director of CPBO, on a panel to discuss a number of relevant ethics rules and provide guidance on how those rules impact pro bono service. The panel discussed topics ranging from the formation of the attorney-client relationship and confidentiality to limited-scope representation. Finally, Kelly Tautges, director of pro bono and court advocacy at The Chicago Bar Foundation, spoke about some of the numerous opportunities for in-house counsel in Illinois to use their legal skills to aid communities in need.

The concept for this event grew from several discussions in-house pro bono leaders in Chicago had during meetings convened by CPBO that focused on sharing best practices and collaborating more to improve access to justice. The event attracted more than 130 in-house counsel from around the state who attended either
in-person or online. Since then, several legal departments have contacted CPBO to learn more about developing in-house pro bono programs for their legal staff.

For more information about in-house pro bono, including multijurisdictional practice rules and how to start a program, please contact CPBO Director Eve Runyon.

**denotes a Signatory to the Corporate Pro Bono ChallengeSM