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In 2002 Paula Boggs was one of ten lawyers on Corporate Counsel‘s shortlist of assistant or deputy GCs who we thought had the potential to become a Fortune 500 GC in the next five years ["The Shortlist," October 2002]. We bet that Boggs — a former army paratrooper, junior staffer on Iran-contra, and partner at Seattle’s Preston Gates & Ellis, then working as vice president-legal for products, operations and IT systems at Dell Inc. in Round Rock, Texas — would be in high demand. We guessed right. That summer Boggs was offered the GC position at Starbucks Corp. The lawyer could have had her pick of jobs, but she chose the Seattle-based company, in large part because of its varied charitable efforts. Boggs was especially interested in expanding a nascent program started by her predecessor and run out of the legal department that helped Seattle’s poor make their way through housing court. In the 15 months since she joined the ubiquitous latte purveyor, she has dramatically increased the size of the program, made her department’s 30 lawyers and 46 staffers freely available to the project on a regular, ongoing basis — and made expansion of pro bono activity a central part of her department’s five-year strategic plan. The lawyers who regularly participate in pro bono work also get additional points when it comes to bonus time. Boggs says that she asks everyone in the department to note their community service efforts in their annual self-evaluation. But she adds that no one gets penalized if they’re too busy to join in. Starbucks isn’t alone in sending its lawyers out to help the needy. Hilton Hotels Corp.’s legal department, along with a few other in-house law departments, participates in annual “adoption days” around the nation, helping orphaned children with medical or emotional problems find parents ["Giving It Away," December 2003]. But the Starbucks program is unique in its year-round time and staff commitment: A rotating group of two lawyers and two support staffers from the legal department spend alternate Tuesdays at Seattle’s Kings County Housing Project, representing needy tenants in court disputes with their landlords. Why is doing good so important to her? Boggs, 44, credits her upbringing and early legal career. “I grew up in the Roman Catholic Church, a faith with a deep history and commitment to social justice issues,” she says. Boggs adds that her parents — her late father was a college professor and her mother a teacher and school administrator — “instilled the importance and duty of giving to those less fortunate.” Plus, as a onetime federal prosecutor in Seattle, Boggs says she saw “up close and personal the tragic consequences that flow from not having competent counsel in our society.” Starbucks considers good works as crucial to its success as selling double-shot caramel lattes. It issues an “Annual Report for Social Responsibility” alongside its corporate annual report each year, which details its efforts to, among other things, help struggling small coffee producers worldwide. The law department’s new pro bono effort was “a real positive in evaluating whether to take the job,” says Boggs. Even though the city is known as a magnet for political activists, Starbucks’s legal department’s commitment stands out in the local legal community. The department was “the corporate leader in taking on a pro bono program at a time when no one else in the area was doing it,” says Julia Parsons Clarke, who chairs the state bar’s Community Legal Services Committee. Legal departments at Microsoft Corp. and the AT&T Corp. offices in Seattle have since instituted major pro bono efforts, she says. While the housing program helps the disadvantaged, it gives Boggs’ department a benefit, too: It’s helping the staff hone their lawyering skills. Esther Lardent, president of the Pro Bono Institute at Georgetown University Law Center, says that, unlike many pro bono legal efforts, the Starbucks program is “litigation-focused, and most corporate lawyers are not litigators.” With a relatively small attorney staff, is Boggs ever frustrated when she goes looking for a lawyer who is spending the day at a housing hearing? “It’s never happened,” she quickly answers. “Never.” The key to making it work, Boggs says, is to ensure that every in-house lawyer is cross-trained in representing a tenant before the court, so the attorneys can provide backup for one another. Boggs’ staffers clearly relish the break from their usual grind. “Our attorneys have managed to keep homes together, and in one case got money back for a wrongfully displaced client,” boasts assistant GC Lucy Lee Helm. Other employees share her enthusiasm, including legal secretary Cheryl Storrs, who says she finds it rewarding when “our attorneys go before a judge … and present a defense that ends with our client receiving, if nothing else, more time in which to move out.” Boggs says she is looking to expand the department’s menu of good works. She has convened a 14-member employee committee, which is currently polling the department and will offer a wider choice of pro bono work, including participation in adoption days. About half the staff has already said it wants to continue working on the housing project. The department’s efforts are clearly paying off. And the clients seem happy with the work. As one housing court defendant told Helm: “Now I have a lawyer just like on TV.”

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