Pro Bono and MLP

Pro Bono providers of legal services, from private law firms to corporations, make a major contribution to many Medical-Legal Partnerships (MLPs) across the US. While many of these providers are as almost as old as the MLP movement itself, the entry of Walmart onto the MLP landscape in late 2011 promises to be one of the most significant pro bono contributions by corporate counsel, ever.

US retailer Walmart, known for its supercenter format, “serves customers and members more than 200 million times per week at more than 10,130 retail units under 69 different banners in 27 countries. With fiscal year 2012 sales of $443 billion, Walmart employs 2.2 million associates worldwide.”1

“Starting on its home turf in Arkansas, but with plans to expand the program, Wal-Mart’s legal department is providing free legal services for patients at the Arkansas Children’s Hospital.”2

L to R - Walmart Legal Senior Associate General Counsel, Michael Spencer, LCCLC Coordinator Peter Noble, Medical Legal Partnership: Boston, Pro Bono Director, Johanna Flacks, PBI National Conference 2012

Walmart was publicly awarded for its new pro bono commitment at the 2012 National Conference for Medical Legal Partnership and was also a keen participant at the 2012 Pro Bono Institute National Conference days later. There they joined, by popular reckoning, more corporate counsel than ever before, indicating the strong and growing contribution by in-house corporate lawyers in providing access to justice.

One of the interesting features of this growth, and one that augurs well for potential service recipients and brokers, like community legal centres, is the potential to leverage greater pro bono by law firms through the briefing practices of many large corporations. The more that they demonstrate and communicate their interest in pro bono, the more that law firms being briefed will sync their pro bono work, driving better legal services for the community in a sea of unmet legal need.

 

Peter Noble

 

1. http://walmartstores.com/aboutus  accessed 29 March 2012

2. Wal-Mart launches Medical-Legal Partnership to Aid Low-Income Families, American Bar Association, http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/wal-mart_launches_medical-legal_partnership_to_aid_low-income_families/ accessed 29 March 2012

Comments

  1. This might provide a useful model for in-house lawyers in Australia as well. How much training is usually involved and who provides it?

    • Without a doubt – the collaboration between MLP | Boston, Mintz Levin, and bio tech Biogen Idec (see the post Mintz Levin – pro bono for the long haul) is yet another example of corporate pro bono supporting MLP. As to training I don’t know. There are some excellent resources but I suspect it’s done centre by centre, eg. MLP | Boston has a Pro Bono coordinator who would no doubt be co-ordinating training. I will find out more, including whether there are specific materials for corporate / in-house lawyers.

      Kind Regards,

      Peter

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