The Pro Bono Institute has named general counsel Brad Smith and Microsoft Corporation’s department of legal and corporate affairs as the joint recipients of its 2014 Laurie D. Zelon Pro Bono Award, in recognition of “their unwavering efforts to aid the under-represented.”
“At Microsoft, we believe it is our duty to extend our pro bono services to those who need it most in our communities locally and abroad,” Smith said in a statement. “We thank [the institute] for recognizing our dedication to serving some of the world’s most vulnerable groups.”
The award will be presented at the institute’s annual conference on Thursday in Washington, D.C.
The group said Smith and his legal department of more than 1,000 professionals in 55 countries have “developed and supported numerous pro bono projects and played a major role in addressing the critical legal needs of the most vulnerable.”
Institute chief executive Esther Lardent said, “We applaud Brad and the legal department at Microsoft for their steadfast commitment and inventive approaches to pro bono legal services.”
One such initiative is Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), which Smith cofounded in 2008 with actress Angelina Jolie, who is the U.N. refugee agency special envoy. KIND finds pro bono attorneys from major law firms, corporations and law schools to represent immigrant children without a parent or guardian.
In five years, KIND has served more than 5,000 children. And it has advocated for changes in U.S. law, policy and practice to improve how unaccompanied children are treated.
The legal department’s other pro bono work includes drafting disaster provisions for global relief organizations and providing legal advice to social entrepreneurs.
Rima Alaily, assistant GC at Microsoft, chairs the company’s pro bono steering committee and works in the antitrust legal group. While the committee’s focus is on growing the KIND program, she said it has also launched new initiatives such as a legal clinic for young adults who are eligible for special immigration relief.
“We’ve also done work trying to establish programs related to veterans who have been injured in combat and are eligible for special compensation,” Alaily told CorpCounsel.com. “And a lot of our folks will partner with an organization they know about, like a neighborhood legal clinic, or will, say, represent a domestic violence victim.”
The award is named in honor of California Court of Appeal Judge Laurie Zelon, who first won it in 2000 when she was with Morrison & Foerster.
Zelon has served as chairwoman of the California Commission on Access to Justice, is a former president of the Los Angeles County Bar Association, and has spent her entire career committed to access to justice for all, including as chairwoman of the American Bar Association’s national Law Firm Pro Bono Project.
The institute has more information on its corporate pro bono programs here.