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Bank of America Announces Pro Bono Initiative at Meeting in New York

On June 20, 2007, Bank of America Corporation’s Legal Department launched a pro bono initiative in New York, focusing on unmet local legal needs, and continuing company-wide pro bono efforts initiated in 2005. Showing support for the effort at the highest levels of the company’s legal leadership, Timothy J. Mayopoulos, Bank of America’s General Counsel, and Todd Baskin, Managing Director and Associate General Counsel and Chair of the New York Pro Bono Committee, spoke at the event, as did Pro Bono Institute President and CEO, Esther F. Lardent.  The New York initiative has also received support from Bank of America’s top management.

Tim Mayopoulos noted that the company, a Charter Signatory to the Corporate Pro Bono Challenge℠,  had taken “a new approach designed to drive volunteerism at all levels of the department.” Todd Baskin related his own experiences in family court as an example of both the benefits of pro bono and the great need for representation.  Esther Lardent discussed the Corporate Pro Bono Challenge℠, a series of voluntary benchmarks issued by Corporate Pro Bono (CPBO), a partnership project of the Association of Corporate Counsel and the Pro Bono Institute, and noted the recent surge in interest and participation in pro bono work in legal departments.  The company’s New York pro bono initiative, following a model that has been particularly successful of late, involves partnerships with several law firms and public interest organizations, including: Greenberg Traurig, the New York City Family Court Legal Services Project, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, the Neighborhood Entrepreneur Law Project, Davis Polk & Wardwell, Volunteers of Legal Service, Shearman & Sterling, Sanctuary for Families, and Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts.  After the well-attended plenary meeting, volunteers from the company were able to attend breakout sessions with each of the project partners.

Over the past year, Bank of America’s Pro Bono Committee has developed a pro bono policy, created a web page on the legal department’s intranet, and resolved several of the issues that may deter in-house legal staff seeking to do pro bono work, including malpractice insurance, time constraints, and skill sets/opportunity matching.  During his remarks, Mr. Mayopoulos noted the many reasons to do pro bono work, pointed out that pro bono promotes teamwork and professional growth, and observed that pro bono is consistent with the company’s commitment to corporate social responsibility.  Furthermore, in addition to his pride that the company is a Charter Signatory to CPBO’s Corporate ChallengeSM and his own commitment to meeting the Challenge℠, he stated his expectation that the legal staff will exceed the Challenge℠ goal of 50% percent staff participation.