Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Pro Bono Publico, Pro Conflicts?

Interesting coverage touching on several conflicts issues: "Big law already had a pro bono problem. Then the budget crisis happened." --
  • "A story from the last financial crisis illustrates the conflicts inherent in pro bono work at a big law firm—a nexus of pressures that continue today, when demand for volunteer services is more acute than ever."
  • "Mayer Brown, like most of the country's large firms, represents big banks, including JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America. So representing homeowners trying to halt foreclosures raised the possibility of a direct conflict of interest if the law firm also represented a bank that held the mortgage. It presented an indirect conflict, too: What if the lawyers won decisions that hurt the banks in future cases?"
  • "Such conflicts are bound to arise when attorneys at law firms that generate millions in annual revenue perform work pro bono publico—for the public good. There is no question that asking lawyers at big firms to volunteer their services to the disadvantaged brings real good. But at the same time, tensions exist in the volunteer model, and not just because law firms typically make money through hourly billings. Other factors that influence big firms' pro bono programs are time pressures, the types of cases lawyers choose to take and—as Mayer Brown experienced with foreclosure cases—client conflicts."
  • "Some lawyers say they simply feel freer to do pro bono work when accountable to no one but themselves. Steven Bashaw heads a real estate and foreclosure practice in Lisle, and he defends some foreclosure cases pro bono while training other lawyers to do the same work. His pro bono work was limited when he was a partner at McBride Baker & Coles, a Chicago firm that merged with Holland & Knight in 2002. Conflicts of interest prevented him from representing certain clients. So did the money-oriented culture of large law firms. Bashaw used to 'sneak around' to do his volunteering."

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