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It’s not unusual for companies to fashion a request for proposal on standard business matters, but when Intel Corp. issued an invitation for help with pro bono, it was on to something new. Last fall, the computer chip maker used a request for proposal (RFP) to find law firms that would partner with attorneys at its Silicon Valley headquarters on community service projects. Encouraged by the results, Intel plans to repeat the request at three other offices this spring. “This really is a model,” said Esther Lardent, president of the Pro Bono Institute, a nonprofit consulting group based in Washington. “We’ve seen some pieces [of Intel's strategy elsewhere] . . . but having an actual formal RFP process hasn’t been done before.” Intel solicited ideas from a dozen firms (that had both pro bono coordinators and offices in the San Francisco Bay Area) to help with projects at its Santa Clara, Calif., campus. Ultimately the company selected Baker & McKenzie, which has done work for Intel before, and Nixon Peabody, which has not. “Whether we have a business relationship with a firm is not important [for the pro bono project],” said Bruce Sewell, Intel’s GC. Extensive survey Intel’s initiative started with an extensive survey of its U.S. legal staff a year ago. More than 300 department employees, including 180 attorneys, were asked about their personal volunteer efforts, their interest in pro bono, and obstacles to doing community service work at the company. Group counsel Jeffrey Hyman, who chairs Intel’s pro bono committee, said that while some results were expected, others came as a surprise. “We learned that a lot [of our attorneys] used to do [pro bono] at law firms and other companies, but since coming to Intel had stopped,” said Hyman. “A number of people also felt there was no management approval for it, [and] that it wasn’t valued.” In December, about 20% of the 110 legal employees in Intel’s Santa Clara office underwent pro bono training. The following month, several staff attorneys began working with Nixon Peabody on projects with two San Francisco-based public interest groups, Legal Services for Entrepreneurs and Legal Services for Children. One effort assists low-income business owners on various matters like real estate and trademarks, while the other resolves guardianship disputes for children. At press time, Intel lawyers were slated to start work on a joint project with Baker & McKenzie and the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County to negotiate disputes for special education students in local schools.

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