Guest Blogger Elizabeth Black Berry, librarian and attorney with Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP brings us another Pro Bono discussion to celebrate Pro Bono Week. Elizabeth discusses the opportunities for Houston area lawyers to participate in the Houston Pro Bono Network and help bring a broader access to justice for all. Elizabeth’s contact information is listed below if you are interested in learning more about these programs.

If you are not in the Houston, contact your local bar association to see what Pro Bono opportunities are available in your area.

In December, 2009, the Houston Pro Bono Network (HPBN) launched the Houston Pro Bono Joint Initiative with in-house counsel, kicking off the cooperative effort with a planning meeting featuring a presentation by the Pro Bono Institute.  The HPBN’s new Pro Bono Joint Initiative aims to coordinate pro bono activities among law firms and the in-house legal departments of corporations in the Houston area in order to more strategically serve the pro bono legal needs of the greater Houston community.

The HPBN, founded in 2007 by a group of Houston attorneys including Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP Partner Sylvia Mayer and Mayer Brown LLP Partner Charles Kelley, is an informal group of pro bono coordinators from large and small Houston law firms.

“The Houston Pro Bono Network initially brought together law firm attorneys to share best practices and discuss ideas in order to expand the pro bono base in Houston,” said Mayer.  “From this effort came the idea of working in partnership with our in-house colleagues, recognizing that we have shared challenges and shared goals, and that together we can make a greater impact on those in need in the greater Houston area.”

The new Houston Pro Bono Joint Initiative will focus on enhancing the pro bono base and offerings of Houston’s legal community through the following strategies: identifying and recruiting attorneys interested in doing pro bono work; sharing of pro bono opportunities; leveraging the collective strength of law firm and in-house attorneys; and raising the profile of the group’s pro bono efforts within the community and legal profession.  It will provide a central platform to generate broader participation and partnership among businesses, and consequently, expects to produce successful pro bono results to better serve the Houston community.

“Corporate legal departments have a tremendous interest in giving back to the local community and in setting a high standard for citizenship and professionalism by providing pro bono service to the neediest Texans,” said Peggy Montgomery, retired counsel at ExxonMobil and founding member of the Houston Pro Bono Joint Initiative Coordinating Committee.  “We are certain that this new initiative will provide a valuable and powerful mechanism to align the pro bono efforts of in-house attorneys and Houston-area law firms, resulting in broader access to justice for all.”

The inaugural members of the Houston Pro Bono Joint Initiative Coordinating Committee were: Christian Callens, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP; Patrick Cohoon, Cozen O’Connor; Rob Fowler, Baker Botts LLP; Ivett Hughes, Halliburton and Pro Bono Coordinator for the Association of Corporate Counsel Houston chapter; Charles Kelley, Mayer Brown LLP; Karen Lukin, Marathon Oil; Sylvia Mayer, Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP; Peggy Montgomery, ExxonMobil; and Laney Vazquez, BP.  Since formation of the Joint Initiative, Susan Sanchez with ExxonMobil has replaced Peggy Montgomery and Mike Rigo with BP has replaced Laney Vazquez.

Law Librarian and attorney, Elizabeth Black Berry at Weil in Houston is the administrative member of the HPBN and HPBJI.  She also takes her own Pro Bono cases and will be happy to field any questions or comments about the work of the two Houston Pro Bono groups.  She can be reached at or (713) 546-5055.