Ahead of the launch of our new resource, Pro Bono Legal Work: A guide for in-house corporate lawyers, we spoke with Stephen Chang, Senior Legal Counsel, South Pacific Office of the General Counsel, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE).
This is the first in a series we hope to share with you, to provide insight into what pro bono looks like for in-house lawyers at large companies.
Q: What pro bono legal work does HPE undertake?
Stephen: Currently, the HPE legal team in Australia is involved in three pro bono programs:
- Refugee Advice and Casework Service (RACS) with Norton Rose Fulbright;
- Human Rights Watch with Norton Rose Fulbright; and
- Arts Law DRS Panel.
Q: Why did HPE choose to establish a legal pro bono program in Australia? What benefits does involvement bring to the organisation and each of the lawyers involved?
Stephen: HPE’s Office of the General Counsel has a longstanding commitment to the community and pro bono work, which is shared by all of its members around the world. Through involvement in pro bono programs, we hope to make a real impact in the betterment of the community here in Australia, and enable our legal professionals to apply their skills outside of their professional roles.
Q: What criteria does HPE use to select the pro bono legal work it undertakes?
Stephen: We review the type of pro bono work we engage in on a periodic basis, but we generally select work that:
(1) better utilises the areas of law our team members have interests or expertise in; and
(2) fits with the work schedules and office locations here in HPE.
Q: How is your pro bono legal program managed? Is it part of the organisation’s wider community engagement program or managed separately?
Stephen: The pro bono legal program is managed globally by a team of lawyers who coordinate and track our involvement in pro bono across the world. In Australia, we appoint a member of the staff to act as key liaison with local pro bono program/projects. This is managed separately to HPE’s wider community engagement.
Q: How large is your legal team in Australia? What proportion of the team is involved in pro bono legal work?
Stephen: In Australia, HPE has five lawyers and all of us undertake pro bono legal work from time to time.
Q: Approximately how many hours per month are your lawyers involved in pro bono legal work? How do you balance the competing demands of pro bono work with your usual workload?
Stephen: Time spent on pro bono work each month varies depending on workload and other commitments such as attending CLE seminars. However, we all aim to spend a minimum of 15 hours a year on pro bono work.
Q: What expertise and skills can your legal team apply to pro bono work? How have your skills been broadened and enhanced through involvement in pro bono?
Stephen: We have a range of expertise and skills that we can apply to pro bono work. For example, some lawyers have a background and/or interest in intellectual property and the arts, while others bring experience in pro bono work with human rights or community groups. Through participating in various kinds of pro bono work, we gain skills in areas we may not have previously been exposed to.
I personally have found RACS to be eye opening as you hear of the pain and suffering that asylum seekers have gone through, as well as seeing the administrative processes that they need to go through in order to obtain a humanitarian visa.
Q: You have previously done pro bono work in private practice. How has this experience impacted on your expectation to do, and experience of, pro bono work in-house?
Stephen: While we do not have pro bono lawyers dedicated to pro bono programs and coordination like in private practice, I was pleasantly surprised at HPE’s coordinated structure and approach to pro bono work in-house. I am able to choose the type of pro bono work and the hours spent depending on workload, and bring skills and experience of private practice pro bono work and apply it at HPE to continue to contribute to the community.