August 2012

People have short attention spans.  Always feed your video crew.   User test everything – your assumptions are probably wrong.

These were among the tips shared by participants in the Aug. 15 webinar, “Online Resources for Self-represented Litigants,” part of the Pro Bono Net/LSNTAP Community Training series. Five  court and legal services programs shared lessons

Carleton Strouss spent 10 years as chair of the K&L Gates Pro Bono Committee.

We spoke with Robert Mitchell, the new chair of K&L Gates Pro Bono Committee, and Carleton Strouss, who recently stepped down after serving as the committee chair for 10 years, about the firm’s pro bono program, including its international efforts and the role of technology.  K&L Gates handles hundreds of pro bono cases a year around the globe. 

Rob Mitchell just stepped into the role of Pro Bono Committee chair.

Tell me about K&L Gates’ pro bono program – what are you especially proud of? What makes it unique?

Carleton Strouss: I think that one of the more interesting things about the K&L Gates pro bono program is that it reflects the growth of our firm. The firm is now multi-continent and multi-city and our pro bono work reflects that.  We still provide support to meet needs in the local community, but we also see pro bono extending around the world and not confined to one geographic area.  Pro bono is woven into the fabric of our practice, with our commercial work and pro bono work continuing to become more closely aligned.

How do lawyers at K&L Gates typically get involved in pro bono work?

Carleton Strouss: How our lawyers get involved in pro bono work is an evolutionary tale. In earlier days, you might think all pro bono work was local lawyers identifying local needs, mostly ad hoc. [And] that is still present. But people also start affiliations in providing services. By way of illustration, common themes that are present in a few of our offices include working with women and children at risk, assisting veterans, and helping refugees navigate immigration. We have an association with Habitat for Humanity, and we assist with closing documents. Aside from that we may get involved in matters through court appointments, typically criminal or appellate. As I mentioned, we have established ourselves as a global practice, and that increases collaboration in multiple practices as we help clients respond to issues that are global in nature. Also, our Government Affairs practice has grown and we’ve advocated for U.S. funding of projects aiding the underserved.

Can you tell me a little more about your global projects?

Carleton Strouss: Two of them involve the International Senior Lawyers Project. One of our senior environmental lawyers went to Tanzania to provide advice on appropriate environmental standards in developing mineral resources. Also, a senior partner headed to Liberia to help provide advice on criminal justice matters for the government.

Robert Mitchell: He’s in Monrovia (the capital of Liberia) now, training prosecutors and directly assisting in the prosecution of government corruption, which is a serious problem sapping development in many parts of the world.

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The Northwest Justice Project (NJP) is charged with creating a series of instructive videos for through the federal Communities Connect Network Project (part of the Department of Commerce’s Broadband Technology Opportunity Program) which aims to increase access to technology and improve legal literacy for unrepresented Washingtonians.  NJP recently released its 8th video, on Public