Grace Gilligan is an attorney in the Government Investigations and Regulatory Enforcement group (GIRE) in the Legal Department of JPMorgan Chase & Co, and a member of the Department’s Pro Bono Steering Committee.  Prior to joining JPMorgan, Grace was a litigation associate at the law firm of Milbank, LLP.  During her time at Milbank, Grace worked on two pro bono externships with the Juvenile Rights Division of the Legal Aid Society, where she represented clients in juvenile delinquency proceedings.  Grace is a graduate of Fordham Law School.

I believe that lawyers can use technology to make the world a better place.

I am an in-house attorney at JPMorgan Chase & Co., and the recipient of the 2019 JPMorgan Chase Pro Bono Fellowship.  JPMorgan awards the Fellowship to one of its in-house attorneys each year, to work full-time for up to six months on a project that advances its Legal Pro Bono Mission: strengthening communities, empowering families, and advocating for vulnerable individuals.  It’s a unique opportunity that reflects the Department’s commitment to pro bono, and faith in its attorneys to do good in the world.  I chose to partner with Pro Bono Net on my fellowship project, because the organization shares my deep commitment to using the power of technology for social good.

The big picture goal of my fellowship project is finding new ways for in-house attorneys (like me) to participate more effectively in pro bono work.  For structural reasons, in-house attorneys generally don’t have the same tools as law firm attorneys to facilitate long-term pro bono projects – tools like full time pro bono coordinators and 24-hour legal support staff.

As a result, I think there is a vast and underutilized pool of in-house legal talent that could be harnessed in the profession’s efforts to close the access to justice gap.  I’m working on several projects with Pro Bono Net to achieve this goal.  We’re re-designing the PBN Corporate Counsel site as a place for in-house attorneys to communicate with one another about pro bono opportunities, resources, and challenges.

At the end of April, my Pro Bono Net colleagues and also I kicked off a tech project with the JPMorgan Chase Force for Good team in Corporate Technology.  Together, we’ll be building a new platform for attorneys in different sectors of the profession to connect and collaborate on pro bono projects.

The access to justice gap is wide, but I’m confident it can be closed.

We’ve also organized a panel discussion to explore the connections between the two greatest challenges facing the legal profession: the access to justice gap and lack of diversity in the top ranks of the profession.  These two issues are generally considered separately, but we’ll discuss how they are related and whether there are common solutions.  The panel discussion will take place on June 4th from 12-2pm at Latham & Watkins’ office in New York, and will feature speakers from the in-house, law firm, and legal services sectors.  Invitation coming soon!

To summarize, I believe that lawyers can use technology to make the world a better place.  Reading a bold statement like that, you might say I’m an idealist.  People have always been cynical about lawyers, and we live in a time of intense cynicism about technology too – its effects on privacy, democracy, and the social fabric itself. But I won’t join the cynics, on either front.

Ambrose Bierce, in his Unabridged Devil’s Dictionary, defines a cynic as someone “whose faulty vision sees things as they are – not as they ought to be.”  I can’t help but see things the other way around: as they ought to be – not as they are.  The access to justice gap is wide, but I’m confident it can be closed.  The public defender crisis is dire, but I’m convinced it can be solved.  The legal profession doesn’t reflect the diversity of society by a long shot, but I’m certain it can be changed.  And technology has been used in malevolent ways, but I know it can still be a force for good.  That’s because technology is simply an amplifier of all human capabilities.  We confront the malevolence not by abandoning technology altogether, but by using it to amplify the better angels of our nature.

It was through my pro bono work that I first realized the astonishing creative power I have – as just one person with a law degree – to change the entire trajectory of other people’s lives for the better.  As I sat with my pro bono clients in courtrooms and conference rooms over the years, I saw in their eyes an unshakable belief that I could fix the injustices they’d suffered.  I’m deeply grateful to both JPMorgan Chase and Pro Bono Net for giving me the opportunity to amplify my own capabilities through the Pro Bono Fellowship.