National Models of Pro Bono Excellence

The Philadelphia community leads the nation in pro bono. But we can still learn from national models of excellence.

Low Bono Nonprofit Firm Created: “I was asked in fall 2014 to assist Georgetown University Law Center, DLA Piper and Arent Fox to create the DC Affordable Law Firm to address the "access to justice gap" which leaves persons overqualified for legal aid effectively without representation in civil matters because they cannot afford the normal rates charged by lawyers. The firm would be staffed by six recent Georgetown Law graduates participating in a tuition-free LLM program and supervised and mentored by volunteers from Arent Fox and DLA Piper. This model appeared to be novel compared to the few other 501(c)(3) "low bono" firms known to the sponsors. My research and experience convinced me—and I convinced the sponsors—that exempt status was attainable with appropriately defined charitable classes, a below-market fee structure, and demographic data supporting the conclusion that the firm was charitable, not commercial. Less than two months after I filed my exemption application, the IRS issued its favorable determination letter—no questions asked—and the firm is now operational.” Renee M. Schoenberg, DLA Piper, Chicago IL, winner of the 2016 Pro Bono Publico Award of the ABA’s Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service. Read more here.

Corporate Commitment: In 2009, Duke Energy Corporation Legal Department pledged that at least 50 percent of staff would participate in pro bono work annually. This goal was achieved in 2011 and the department later reached 84 percent staff pro bono participation in 2015. Duke's lawyers have partnered with many organizations to prepare free wills, estate planning documents, and power of attorney forms for public school employees. The legal department has expanded this concept, providing similar no-cost services at clinics catering to senior citizens. These efforts received recognition by the Association of Corporate Counsel as the winner of the 2016 ACC Corporate Pro Bono Award. Read more here.

Return to Pro Bono main page