Erin Correale is a Director and Associate General Counsel at UBS Financial Services Inc., in the UBS Wealth Management Americas business division. Erin is the Chair of the UBS Wealth Management Americas Pro Bono Legal Program, and a founding member of the Pro Bono Council for Sanctuary for Families in New York.
As a first time attendee at this year’s Pro Bono Institute Annual Conference, I found the event to be a great example of a live and in-person “How To” manual for pro bono. The wealth of knowledge and the generosity of experience of the panelists and participants were invaluable to fledgling programs like ours at UBS Wealth Management. Each connection yielded sound advice on getting started and making a pro bono program work. After speaking to coordinators and committee chairs from companies from across the country, I concluded that the insight that I gained could be applied universally. I took away a tremendous amount from my first conference. Here are just a few of the lessons I learned.
Finding the value of pro bono for your company: Start by only measuring what matters. You create the standard of success, whether it is to increase employee engagement, fulfill the philanthropic goals of the company, or just to make it easy for staff lawyers to give back and fulfill the ethical obligations of our practice. Then measure your progress to those goals, because what gets measured can be valued (by others too), and what gets valued gets done.
Motivating lawyers who volunteer: I gained valuable insight into myself as a lawyer and volunteer and some very practical knowledge that applies to both my colleagues and me. Challenging lawyers to learn and grow, if only by a small stretch, keeps them interested and satisfied. Shared values motivate lawyers and instill a connection between the employee and the company that might not otherwise exist but for your pro bono program. The intrinsic rewards of volunteering are very powerful motivators to do pro bono work, while penalties and “payments” are much less effective, as they encourage short-term thinking and results. Instead, incentivize through pro bono “champions” whose good feelings will be contagious and keep volunteers coming back for more.
Engaging the skeptics: Although I’ve encountered relatively few to date, this session provided practical advice about disarming critics and earning supporters. Panelists and participants were frank about biases and misperceptions. They fairly treated the sincerely expressed beliefs posited by some (admittedly, none present) about whether pro bono makes good business sense. Strategies that resonated universally were to tie pro bono programs to who we are as lawyers, and that developing us and connecting with us through pro bono improves morale in hiring, training and retention — in turn benefiting the company.
It will take me at least a year to follow up on every “take-away” I gave myself and every connection I made at the conference, but it is a process I look forward to. If I were designing a corporate pro bono workshop, this is exactly how I would do it. Thank you, PBI and Corporate Pro Bono.