At the International Law Office's annual gala dinner and awards ceremony over the past few years, I have seen the Global Counsel Awards presented to many deserving individuals and in-house teams - awards, according to ILO, that "recognize demonstrable achievements across the full spectrum of in-house responsibility." Each year I pay particularly close attention to the Pro Bono Award, which recognizes that the "full spectrum of in-house responsibility" includes pro bono work, and I take pride in the fact that our profession - inside and outside counsel - takes so seriously the responsibility we have to help those in need. I commend the past years' winners - Royal Bank of Canada, Caterpillar Inc., Wyeth and National Australia Bank Limited - for their obvious commitment to this effort.
But this column is not meant to exhort or inspire others to provide pro bono services; in my experience few practitioners, including in-house counsel, need the encouragement. The challenge facing most lawyers is not a lack of interest in doing pro bono work, but a lack of time and a lack of opportunities that align with their interests and talents. Significant as those challenges are, they are not insurmountable. Among outside counsel, for example, we have seen law firms developing strategies and an infrastructure to ensure that their attorneys can enjoy meaningful pro bono experiences. Indeed, many law firms (including my own) administer their programs not only by a committee of partners and associates, but also by attorneys who work exclusively as pro bono coordinators. Law firms partner with various public interest organizations that send along interesting and diverse opportunities, and they staff pro bono matters both with eager associates who are looking to develop their legal skills and provide an important public service, and with experienced partners who can provide necessary guidance.