Like most law firm lawyers who go in-house, Marc Gary probably didn't miss time sheets, billable hours and rainmaking when he left Mayer Brown to join BellSouth's legal department in 2000. But as Gary settled into his new position as director of litigation for the Atlanta-based company, he did start to miss one thing about law firm life--working with his colleagues on pro-bono projects. Mayer Brown had an active committee that made it easy for the firm's lawyers to participate in a variety of pro-bono projects.
But BellSouth didn't have anything like that.
"Many of our attorneys were doing pro-bono work on their own," says Gary, who is now the company's general counsel. "But there was no formal structure for us to work together on projects to make a bigger impact."
So in 2001 Gary created a program to foster attorney involvement in pro-bono service. With the support of then General Counsel Charles Morgan, Gary created BellSouth's first pro-bono program. The company's lawyers immediately responded.
"It turned out to be an, 'if you build it, they will come' scenario," says Kendall Butterworth, senior litigation counsel and founding chair of BellSouth's pro bono committee. "We were overwhelmed by the level of interest."