It was the mid-2000s and Intel Corp. executives—consistent with the company’s goal to help its communities—decided to implement a skills-based volunteer program companywide. This meant Intel employees would take the skills they use every day at work and put them to use to help those in need. The idea was perfect for the legal department, which was already looking to get an official pro bono program off the ground.
In 2006, under the direction of GC Bruce Sewell, the department formed a pro bono committee of 13 lawyers and four nonlawyers including two co-chairs. The program is spread across Intel’s four major U.S. sites—Santa Clara, Calif.; Chandler, Ariz.; Folsom, Calif.; and Hillsboro, Ore. By early 2007, pro bono volunteers got to work.
For Larry Bennett, patent attorney, and Eva Almirantearena, senior litigation counsel—co-chairs of the program—working at the Santa Clara Housing Clinic was their first project with the program. Run by the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County, the Housing Clinic takes place once a week and gives people in the community an opportunity to seek help from a lawyer on any housing-related matter, such as evictions. “The situations are usually dire and immediate,” explains Almirantearena. “And in a short period of time, you really feel like you’re able to do something for them.”
The clinic-type work the company does is usually instant, on-the-spot assistance with matters. However, some lawyers get involved in longer projects that require an ongoing commitment to one client. Bennett, for example, took on a case involving a disabled boy who wasn’t receiving the support he should have been getting from his school system. “One interesting thing about these types of cases is you kind of become part of the family,” he explains. “And that’s very rewarding.”
Intel’s pro bono work isn’t specific to lawyers. Julie Dunkle, Intel’s headquarters education manager, for instance, is a former special education teacher and is able to bring a different point of view to the team. “I know about testing, about how a school district works and understand their budget restraints,” she explains. “It’s a great complement to the team.”
While it’s impossible to report every project the team has taken on in the past few years, the diversity of its work is laudable. With internal top-down support (today, deputy GC Suzan Miller oversees the program) and the help of its partners, both non-profits and law firms, Intel’s pro bono work is well-respected in the legal community, and it has been recognized through various awards almost every year since its inception.
“Now, we’re continuing that momentum,” Almirantearena says. “It’s part of the department now. People know about it and want to be a part of it.”