On Friday, February 29, 2008, the legal department of Bank of America Corporation will receive the Pro Bono Institute’s 2008 Laurie D. Zelon Pro Bono Award during a reception at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. Timothy J. Mayopoulos, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Bank of America Corporation, will accept the award on behalf of the legal department. The award, given each year to an individual or organization that has provided exemplary pro bono service, will be presented in conjunction with the Institute’s 2008 Pro Bono Seminar and Forum on In-house Corporate Pro Bono – a global conference that brings together major law firms, corporate legal departments, and public interest and civil rights organizations to focus on joint efforts to enhance and improve pro bono service.
The award is given in recognition of Bank of America’s focused and successful efforts to develop a pro bono structure that includes the legal departments in several cities and all department staff. At the June 2007 launch of the company’s pro bono initiative in New York, Mr. Mayopoulos noted that Bank of America, a Charter Signatory to the Corporate Pro Bono Challenge℠, had taken “a new approach designed to drive volunteerism at all levels of the department.” Within a year of launching an enterprise-wide pro bono initiative in 2005, the legal department created pro bono opportunities in diverse locations including: Boston, MA; Charlotte, NC; Chester, PA; Columbus, OH; Hartford, CT; Los Angeles, CA; Providence, RI; San Francisco, CA; Seattle, WA and Tampa, FL. Between the first and second years of the company-wide initiative, the company’s provision of legal services to those in need increased almost four-fold, from 1200 hours in 2006 to over 4600 hours in 2007.
The company’s pro bono efforts include group and individual projects in critical areas of community need. Bank of America legal department staff have prepared wills for cancer patients in Atlanta, provided legal services for domestic violence survivors in New York, assisted low-income micro-entrepreneurs and charitable organizations, represented Hurricane Katrina survivors on FEMA appeals, and provided advocacy for children in need. The company also leverages strategic partnerships with law firms such as Greenberg Traurig LLP, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, Davis, Polk & Wardwell, and Shearman & Sterling LLP, and with public interest organizations like Sanctuary for Families, Inc. and the Neighborhood Entrepreneur Law Project of the City Bar Justice Center, to maximize the impact of its pro bono work.
Part of the success of Bank of America’s pro bono initiative is attributable to the support it received from the company. At the launch of Bank of America’s pro bono initiative in June, Mr. Mayopoulos observed that pro bono is consistent with the company’s commitment to corporate social responsibility, with business leaders within the company sending a letter of support for the pro bono initiative. Pro Bono Institute President and CEO, Esther Lardent, who spoke at the June event, commented “The degree of support for Bank of America’s well-structured and broad-based pro bono efforts at the highest levels of the legal department and the company itself is impressive.” Ms. Lardent pointed out that the company’s General Counsel and New York Pro Bono Committee Chair not only attended the pro bono initiative launch, but also spoke about their personal experience with, and support for, pro bono.
About the Laurie D. Zelon Pro Bono Award.
The Laurie D. Zelon Pro Bono Award honors the legal leadership of Laurie D. Zelon, Associate Justice of the California Court of Appeal and one of the originators of the Institute’s Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge℠. Justice Zelon has been a long-time member and served as Chair of the California Commission on Access to Justice, and she is an active member of several statewide judicial committees addressing administration of justice issues.
About the Pro Bono Institute
Established in 1996, PBI is a non-profit organization mandated to explore and identify new approaches to the poor and disadvantaged unable to secure legal assistance to address critical problems. In doing so, the Institute identifies and develops innovative programs and undertakes rigorous evaluations to ensure that these new approaches are workable and effective. The Institute administers a number of projects designed to enhance access to justice, including: the Law Firm Pro Bono Project; the Corporate Pro Bono Project; Second Acts; Global Pro Bono; and the Reinventing Pro Bono Project for public interest organizations.