Law firms aren’t the only place pro bono legal services happen.
Clorox is one of a number of corporations whose legal departments have established a pro bono arm to provide legal services to people who are unable to pay for them.
Corporate pro bono takes different forms, including direct legal services to individuals with limited means, supporting organizations that help those individuals or working to improve the legal system.
We’re proud our lawyers, paralegals and legal administrative assistants choose to use their professional skills to strengthen the communities where we live and work.
Why Clorox does pro bono
Offering pro bono services strengthens the Clorox Legal department. That’s one reason we embarked on in-house pro bono work in 2006, not long after Laura Stein joined Clorox as General Counsel.
Her support was critical at the outset, says Adam Brink, corporate counsel and the lawyer who helped establish the Clorox pro bono program. So, too, was Laura’s insistence that pro bono work happen during regular working hours and be considered as important as people’s Clorox-related work.
Clorox pro bono started by supporting a couple of nonprofit legal organizations whose missions dovetailed with The Clorox Company Foundation focus on Oakland-area youth, specifically domestic violence and the reentry of convicted felons to society.
Today, between 50 percent and 75 percent of our legal professionals — lawyers, paralegals and administrative assistants — volunteer pro bono every year. And we support a wider variety of pro bono clients based on the passions of the Clorox legal team, including entrepreneurs and artists.
Those who participate get to apply legal skills they might not use in their day jobs, which helps them develop new capabilities while helping others.
Tips for successful pro bono programs
Simply wanting to do pro bono work is no guarantee of success, and we’ve learned a lot in the past 11 years — chiefly that there’s no one-size-fit-all pro bono program, Brink says.
Here are three tips to get the most out of a pro bono program:
- Make sure you have leadership’s support. Creating and sustaining a meaningful pro bono program takes time. At Clorox, our legal volunteers know our general counsel is passionate about Clorox supporting the community and sees pro bono as great for personal and professional development.
- Partner smart. Most corporations have limited resources, so partnering with legal aid organizations with pro bono experience will help amplify your impact. Clorox also partners with law firms we do business with because pro bono is a good way to deepen those professional relationships.
- Keep your focus on people. Remember you are doing this to help people who have nobody else to help them, Adam says. Often, the most powerful thing you can do is just show up. While results are important, success will also be measured by the time you spend helping others.
Pro bono voices
We talked to some of the lawyers at Clorox about recent pro bono projects and the organizations they’ve worked with. Here’s what they shared:
Mina Nasseri-Asghar, Corporate Counsel
A team of Clorox attorneys, paralegals and administrative assistants is currently working with Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), representing two teenage brothers from Guatemala as they pursue legal-immigrant status in the U.S.
These brothers escaped gang violence in their home country and arrived in the U.S. as unaccompanied minors. We’ve been working hand-in-hand with our partners KIND and Crowell & Moring LLP to build their applications for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and asylum.
I’m so inspired by our clients’ strength, courage and determination, which they have continually demonstrated at such a young age. We hope for a successful outcome in this case: a new home for our clients, one where they feel safe and secure and thus, can thrive.
Melissa Hung, Senior Corporate Counsel
Several members of our legal team have volunteered with Family Violence Appellate Project (FVAP) to help FVAP attorneys practice their oral arguments in a moot court setting before they are presented in “real” court.
FVAP represents low-income domestic violence survivors in civil legal appeals cases for free, and it’s the only nonprofit of its kind in California. Because it focuses on appealing lower court decisions, FVAP not only helps overturn a poor ruling in the individual case, but also sets important new legal precedents that can have a far-reaching impact on other domestic violence survivors and their families.
Practice or “moot” oral arguments are critical to a successful appeal. They give the lead attorney a chance to do a dry run, presenting their arguments and responding to challenging (often rapid-fire) questions they can expect to face in court.
As in-house counsel, we have a lot of experience diving into new areas of the law that we’re unfamiliar with and quickly homing in on the key issues, so serving as “judges” in moot arguments is a great opportunity for us to apply our skills in a different way. FVAP is also based right in downtown Oakland, California, so we love being able to carry on the Clorox tradition of giving back to our local community. In addition, I’m on FVAP’s New Leadership Council.
Mark Danis, VP – Associate General Counsel
I recently assisted on a case for FVAP. In this case, a trial judge incorrectly refused to issue a restraining order against an estranged spouse who, while in another state, used the Internet to commit acts of abuse against his wife.
FVAP pursued an appeal on behalf of the wife, and I served as a moot court judge to prepare the FVAP team for its oral argument before the California Court of Appeal. The team’s hard work resulted in a complete victory! In the first-ever decision of its kind, the Court of Appeal ruled that if an out-of-state person commits an act of domestic abuse via social media or electronic communications against someone who is in California, California courts do have jurisdiction over the abusive out-of-state party and can therefore issue a restraining order against them.
The decision is an important milestone in upholding California’s goal of protecting all abuse victims —even if the abuser is out-of-state when committing an act of domestic violence against someone in California. In addition to working with FVAP, I also serve on the board of the Family Violence Law Center.
Stephanie Tang, Senior Corporate Counsel
Centro Legal de la Raza is an organization that provides legal representation, education and advocacy to protect and advance the rights of immigrant, low-income and Latino communities. It’s based in the Fruitvale district of Oakland, California, and provided legal services to over 7,000 people in 2016.The organization also has a Youth Law Academy and a Diversity Legal Pipeline program, which provide guidance and mentorship the next generation of attorneys and judges of color.
As a board member, I apply some of the lessons I’ve learned working on corporate governance at Clorox. But the most gratifying aspect is being part of an organization that’s providing direct, effective and much-needed services to the community around us.