John Getsinger and Kathy DiGiorno, senior legal director, Medtronic
John Getsinger and Kathy DiGiorno, senior legal director, Medtronic

Many of the lawyers in Medtronic Inc.’s legal department had placed a priority on pro bono work. But when Cam Findlay joined the Minneapolis-based medical technology company as general counsel in 2009, that focus became official. “He introduced himself to the legal department and announced front and center the importance of pro bono work,” says John Getsinger, Medtronic’s principal legal counsel. “That was a breath of fresh air.”

Almost immediately, Findlay put Getsinger in charge of coordinating a formal pro bono function for the department, a task he was happy to take on. “He sought me out because he knew it was a passion of mine,” Getsinger explains. “I got to work and launched it right away.”

As the program’s coordinator, Getsinger works as a liaison between Medtronic’s legal department and potential law firm and non-profit partners to identify pro bono opportunities for the in-house lawyers and paralegals. Among the first opportunities Getsinger found was handling some pro bono work for the Children’s Law Center of Minnesota (CLC), with Baker & McKenzie working as Medtronic’s law firm partner.

Lawyers who worked on that project helped identify the availability of medical treatment through Medicaid’s Early Periodic Screening Diagnosis and Treatment Services Program for children who are wards of the state. “Their jobs weren’t to work with the children directly, but to do legal research and training to find answers,” Getsinger explains. “Some of them worked with children over and above what they were tasked to do.”

In addition to its work with CLC and Baker & McKenzie, the legal department also partners with Fredrikson & Byron on a mediation pro bono project. Once a month, for three hours, a Medtronic or Fredrikson lawyer acts as a mediator in a legal dispute in which one or both parties is unrepresented by a lawyer.

Some Medtronic lawyers are also currently working with Maslon, Edelman, Borman & Brand to develop a business advice clinic for small companies and startups in remote regions of the state. “There will be one lawyer from Maslon and one from Medtronic answering questions for the client via a webcam,” Getsinger says.

And Getsinger himself is currently doing pro bono work for the non-profit Advocates for Human Rights. “They were looking for lawyers to handle asylum cases, and I’m working to get lawyers here trained to be asylum advocates,” he explains.

Maintaining a strong pro bono program within Medtronic’s legal department is not only beneficial to the community, but also to the lawyers involved, Getsinger says. “Pro bono allows you to broaden your expertise in areas you wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to,” he adds. “I never would have thought about immigration law had I not been on an asylum case. The more experience I get, the better lawyer I am. Pro bono work helps feed that side of the value system.”