In 2013, Breck Weigel, general counsel for GE Aviation’s Military business, convened a group of lawyers from the law departments of 10 leading corporations in Southwest Ohio. Inspired by the example of the Pro Bono Partnership (PBP) of New York (founded with GE leadership), Breck’s idea was to establish the Pro Bono Partnership (PBP) of Ohio, an organization that connects volunteer attorneys with nonprofits in need of free business legal services.
“Like any other business, non-profits need legal services, but on razor thin budgets, and simply can’t afford to hire attorneys,” said Breck. “Through 25 years in private practice in Cincinnati, I became very acquainted with the in-house and law firm communities in this region and was confident that there could be support for this type of organization. Lawyers really do want to give back; it’s just sometimes difficult to find the right channel.”
“PBP has been operational for just over 15 months. In that short time, PBP had over 180 attorneys from corporations and law firms directly assist nonprofit clients with their business legal needs,” said Erin Childs, Executive Director of PBP Ohio. “The impact these volunteers have made in strengthening local nonprofits is already being seen. Thanks to their pro bono service, these organizations are now more effectively able to feed the hungry, house the homeless, and provide essential programs to children, the elderly, immigrants, the disabled and the unemployed.”
And the story doesn’t end there! Ohio’s previous regulations limited many corporate attorneys from being able to take on pro bono work, meaning many individuals who wanted to volunteer their time simply couldn’t. The PBP team successfully advocated that the Supreme Court of Ohio change its rules governing corporate attorneys.
“Because of the change, which went into effect in 2015, about 300 in-house attorneys who work in Ohio but were originally licensed in other states can now take on pro bono matters for deserving Ohio clients,” said Phil Smith, Executive Litigation Counsel for GE Aviation. “PBP has already harnessed the volunteer efforts of many of these attorneys from GE and other companies.”
Are you a lawyer or non-profit wanting to get involved with Pro Bono Partnership of Ohio? Learn more.