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Monthly Marketing Brief

Effectively Market to In-house Counsel Through Your Pro Bono Work

June 2007

Soon to become a model in pro bono work, law firms are increasingly partnering with in-house attorneys. There are benefits all around. Lawyers tend to enjoy pro bono work, it allows for increased trust with an outside lawyer and there is increased probability of additional work in the future.

 

Intel’s new and innovative approach to pro bono work for its in-house lawyers, given a little twist, presents every firm with a way to accomplish its community service goals while concomitantly developing or maintaining relationships with in-house counsel.

Last fall, the computer chip maker successfully used a request for proposal to find law firms to partner with in-house attorneys at its Silicon Valley headquarters on pro bono projects.  The response was so gratifying that Intel later announced it would expand the program to other locations.  Attorneys from Nixon Peabody and Baker & McKenzie are reported to be working with Intel lawyers on projects for two San Francisco-based public interest groups, Legal Services for Entrepreneurs and Legal Services for Children. Baker & McKenzie had worked with Intel before, but not Nixon Peabody.

The opportunity for private firms here is not to wait for an in-house legal department or counsel whom they would like to get to know better to copy Intel’s idea.  Instead, private firms should contact in-house counsel about selecting and then working together on a project of mutual interest.  The in-house lawyers don’t have to be your clients.

The offer will fill a need. A survey of Intel’s domestic legal staff had revealed many of the company’s lawyers had once done and enjoyed pro bono projects when employed by outside law firms.  Recent interviews of in-house lawyers we have conducted confirm Intel’s lawyers are not alone. Pro bono opportunities are not presented to or actively sought in most large corporate legal departments, or in smaller corporate counsel offices.  The in-house lawyers we interviewed also said that working together on pro bono cases would build or further trust and confidence with an outside lawyer, and probably turn into more or initial paying work in the future.

 “This really is a model,” Esther Lardent., president of the Pro Bono Institute, told the The National Law Journal.

Litigation isn’t the only type of work to consider.  Non-profits supporting low-income communities need to help people with, among other things, real estate transactions, business formation, school and elder law.

About the Author

Bob Weiss is president of Alyn-Weiss and Associates, Inc., a Denver-based marketing consulting group which has worked with both corporate, transactional and defense firms and contingent fee practices nationwide for more than 20 years.  He can be reached at 303-298-1676.