Eric Henricks is an assistant general counsel with the Investments Practice Group at Nationwide Insurance. He is currently the chair of Nationwide’s pro bono committee and is a past chair of the Central Ohio ACC’s pro bono committee.
I admit it. I am guilty. I blew off a chapter leader’s breakfast at the 2012 ACC Annual Meeting to break the fast with a tiny, but determined, band of advocates, junkies in fact — pro bono junkies (PBJs). True believers, one and all. They call themselves Corporate Pro Bono (CPBO). It’s a global operation whose primary goal is to disrupt and transform the traditional delivery system of pro bono legal services to the poor, disadvantaged, and other individuals and groups unable to secure legal assistance. They are successful by any measure and continue to challenge the perceived norms and models of access to justice.
The ringleaders of CPBO are Eve Runyon, Shannon Graving and Eric Florenz; each has a history of addiction to pro bono service and good works. They are aided and abetted by long-time PBJ and chief advocate Esther Lardent of the Pro Bono Institute (PBI). Back in 2000, PBI and the ACC joined forces to create CPBO. They have been in collusion ever since. Esther’s involvement in pro bono goes back even further, but we are bound by a sacred oath to not reveal any details. This highly organized band of radical activists prowl around ACC annual meetings and corporate legal departments, challenging CLOs, in-house counsel and ACC chapter leaders to put our unique skills to better work for the corporate clients we serve, our chapters, the communities in which we work and live, and ourselves. The collaborative nature of the work is well suited to this charismatic group of co-conspirators.
At the 2012 ACC Annual Meeting, I was privileged to discuss with my fellow collaborators upcoming plans for ACC’s Central Ohio Chapter to host a CPBO original — the renowned Clinic-in-a-Box. We plotted on how ACC chapters can get their own professional liability coverage for pro bono service and shared experiences with colleagues from other in-house legal departments. We practiced lawyer math in the seminar “1 + 1 = 3: Aligning Corporate Social Responsibility with Pro Bono” and experimented in the physics of leverage in the seminar “Pro Bono Partnerships Mean Greater Value from Your Outside Counsel.” Practical take-aways were key: Find ways to align your company’s CSR function with the legal department’s pro bono work (thematic, structure, financial, just to name a few) and plug in-house pro bono service into outside counsel’s existing pro bono delivery structures.
The CPBO and PBJs are at every ACC Annual Meeting. Don’t be shy. Seek these people out. They will help remind you why many of us went into law in the first place. Be warned — their enthusiasm and dedication just might re-ignite your passion for service. So, at the end of the day, would I blow off that chapter leadership meeting again to hang with a bunch of radical PBJs? You betcha!