In 1997, pro bono legal work wasn't on the radar screen of most general counsel. But Ben Heineman Jr., then-general counsel of General Electric, believed the skills of in-house counsel should be put to work to benefit the community. He encouraged now-retired GE Corporate Counsel Bob Healing to conceptualize a program that would bring much-needed legal assistance to non-profit organizations in Westchester County, N.Y., and Fairfield County, Conn. The result was the Pro Bono Partnership, which now involves 175 legal departments and law firms located in a broad swath of New York, Connecticut and New Jersey.
The Partnership staff reaches out to leaders of non-profit organizations, assesses their legal needs and identifies a volunteer attorney to help them. Mark Nordstrom, who heads GE's labor and employment practice and coordinates pro bono activity worldwide, says the model gives transactional lawyers a place at the pro bono table.