Six years ago, Allstate’s corporate legal department created a formal pro bono program as part of a company-wide focus on community and diversity programs. Up until then, attorneys had volunteered on their own, but Allstate wanted to formally commit to pro bono service. Essential to their program was the creation of partnerships with area legal service agencies, such as the Center for Disability and Elder Law (CDEL) and Cabrini Green Legal Aid (CGLA), to support as many volunteer initiatives as possible.
Chuck Smith, a senior attorney at Allstate who heads up their pro bono efforts, is extremely proud of these relationships. “We’ve been able to get so many people engaged in helping others,” he said.
Allstate supports CDEL by volunteering at their clinics for low income seniors who need to set up powers of attorney and living wills. Additionally, Allstate attorneys are trained to volunteer at the CGLA Expungement Help Desk as a resource for people who are trying to clear their criminal records. Allstate volunteers even had a few clemency petitions granted under the previous governor.
“Allstate Insurance Company has been an invaluable partner in providing pro bono attorneys to offer CGLA’s life-changing services.” says Gretchen Slusser, Executive Director of CGLA. “Sixty-five Allstate attorneys have participated in expungement training and staff shifts at the Daley Center and Markham Help Desks and an additional 15 clients were represented in clemency proceedings before the Prisoner Review Board. Fifty-eight active volunteers have given more than 1000 hours of pro bono services, traveling from Allstate’s offices in Northbrook to the Daley Center and Markham courthouse each month to staff our Expungement Help Desks and meeting with clemency clients.”
While Allstate volunteers do a lot of good for the community and the clients they serve, Chuck says there are three main ways that a formal pro bono program has enhanced office culture.
- Job Satisfaction
Pro bono work gives people “a real sense of accomplishment,” says Chuck, adding that pro bono clients shower their attorneys with appreciation. “Our attorneys just feel a great sense of pride from their pro bono work,” he says. “It sends a message that they are valued.”
- Developing New Skills
“Pro bono gives people a chance to get out of their comfort zone,” says Chuck. He says that working through the uncertainty and unpredictability they experience in their pro bono work can help attorneys excel in their jobs. “In a corporate legal environment where people need to take on new tasks,” he explains, “pro bono work can be a source of confidence that people can succeed.”
- Team Building
Pro bono can be a good team building exercise. “On a corporate level, we do a week of volunteer activity in May to give back to the community,” Chuck explains. “This provides a good opportunity for a group of people to work and volunteer together and build relationships. It is collaborative and fun.”
In these ways, Allstate demonstrates how a formal pro bono program can benefit everyone: the attorneys, the legal agencies and the clients they serve.