Pro Bono Partnership Pundit: Lawyers Giving Back to Their Communities

April 25, 2017


Volunteers help make our communities stronger and nicer places to live.

Their extraordinary efforts are the impetus for National Volunteer Week, celebrated this week, April 23-29, a time to recognize and thank volunteers who lend their time, talent, voice and support to causes they care about in their community.

In designating the first such week in 1974, President Nixon observed that American volunteers’ “efforts most frequently touch the lives of the poor, the young, the aged and the sick, but in the process, the lives of all men and women are made richer.”

Each president has carried forward this tradition of honoring volunteerism, with President Trump noting last week that National Volunteer Week provides us the opportunity to “celebrate the spirit of compassion and generosity that drives us to care for others, and [to] recognize America’s volunteers[, who] … are often unsung and unseen, but they are heroes.”

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Become a volunteer lawyer to strengthen nonprofits.

In honor of all the volunteers that make our work at Pro Bono Partnership possible, I’m going to share a story of a recent program that would not have been possible without the dedication and passion of volunteers, and highlight some of the individuals we’ll fête later this week.


On April 6, we held SmorgasbonoSM, one of our legal Q&A programs for nonprofits. This installment of the program was co-sponsored with the Association for Corporate Counsel–New JerseyVerizon, and Jackson Lewis.

Twelve nonprofits — including Dodge grantees Dance/New JerseyFreespace DanceGreater Newark Conservancy, and New York – New Jersey Trail Conference — had the opportunity to meet with up to five different teams of lawyers to discuss the nonprofit’s practices with respect to contracts, corporate governance, employment, intellectual property, internet and websites, privacy, and real estate.

Thirty lawyers from nine corporations — Brother International, Chubb, Cognizant Technology Solutions, Datapipe, Dun & Bradstreet, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Merck, SUEZ, and Verizon — and two lawyers from Jackson Lewis participated.

A program such as SmorgasbonoSM requires a substantial amount of behind-the-scenes work to pull off successfully. Thankfully we have an able team of partners who helped us facilitate the April program, including Leslie Wolfson, executive director of ACC-NJ); Val Camara (chair of the ACC-NJ Pro Bono Committee); Promila Chaudhari, Celeste Como, Karen Francis, and Susan Schachman (from Verizon); Jim McDonnell (from Jackson Lewis), and our own Kate Marchese.

I’ll let the words of Rebekka Zydel, executive director of Child & Family Resources, speak for themselves:

“I cannot thank you enough for the opportunity to participate in SmorgasbonoSM.

“The event was well organized, thoughtfully planned, and extremely beneficial.  Having the opportunity to meet with a variety of attorneys from multiple areas of expertise at one coordinated event is unique. Speaking with the employment attorneys was validating and confirmed many of the practices we have are appropriate. Being able to reflect with two attorneys helped me to identify areas for improvement, confirm my instincts, and build my confidence as a leader. The intellectual property and real estate attorneys shared valuable insights that will be key to running a successful organization. The privacy attorneys were a blessing and could not have come at a better time. They helped put a new, very overwhelming state-mandated policy into perspective.

“Pro Bono Partnership’s commitment to supporting the nonprofit sector is admirable. You continue to exceed expectations. I wholeheartedly believe that the services provided by the Partnership are integral to Child & Family Resources success over the past 15 years. As an organization who receives approximately 90 percent of our funding from a state contract with level funding year after year, there is no way our organization could access the legal services we’ve required without the Partnership. Because of Pro Bono Partnership, Child & Family Resources can remain focused on providing child care financial assistance to low-wage earning families, professional development to an underpaid child care workforce, as well as help parents and caregivers of young children to change or improve their parenting practices and create safe, stable, nurturing environments for children that protect them from violence, abuse, and its long-term consequences.”

Volunteers of the Year

This Friday, we will honor our New Jersey Volunteers of the Year, at an event hosted by Jackson Lewis.

Dun & Bradstreet’s Legal Department will receive our Volunteer of the Year honor as a group for their collective efforts to launch their pro bono program and work with the Partnership to provide pro bono service to the nonprofit community. Since their program launch in 2015, 16 Dun & Bradstreet lawyers, including Chief Legal Officer Chris Hill, have already answered the call to volunteer their time on 15 projects covering a wide range of legal issues for the Partnership’s nonprofit clients. Their incredible efforts reflect the strength of Dun & Bradstreet’s commitment to volunteerism.

Brian Ginsburg, assistant general Counsel for Sanofi US, will receive our Volunteer of the Year award for 16 years of active volunteerism with the Partnership dating back to Brian’s tenure at Schering-Plough. Brian has provided guidance on nearly 40 projects, allowing clients to devote their resources to programming. Brian has been a volunteer we frequently, and gratefully, rely on. Brian so enjoyed working with one nonprofit, Bridges Outreach, that Brian joined its board of trustees.

In addition, we will honor the following Founding Volunteers, who commenced providing free legal services through Pro Bono Partnership within the first two years of the opening of our New Jersey office in 2000 and who continue to volunteer with us today: Lee Braem (Evonik), Vance Camisa (Merck), David Cohen (Honeywell), Phil Crowley (Johnson & Johnson and Law Office of Philip P. Crowley), Justin Cutlip (Jackson Lewis), Brian Ginsburg (Sanofi), Stephen Greene (G&W Laboratories), Michael Hughes (Prudential), Dave Islinger (Jackson Lewis), Theresa Kelly (Day Pitney), David Richter (PSEG), and Larry Rickles (Teva Pharmaceuticals).

Please tip your caps in honor of these wonderful volunteers and the thousands of other volunteers whose efforts we couldn’t do without.

Christine Michelle Duffy croppedChristine Michelle Duffy is a senior staff attorney with Pro Bono Partnership. Christine is editor-in-chief and contributing author of the critically acclaimed treatise Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Discrimination in the Workplace: A Practical Guide, and a contributor to the treatise New Jersey Employment Law. To learn more about Pro Bono Partnership, or to donate, please visit or call (973) 240-6955.