It’s not unusual for companies to fashion requests for proposals on standard business matters, but when Intel Corp. put out an invitation for help with pro bono, it was onto something new. Last fall the computer chip maker used an 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,” says Esther Lardent, president of the Pro Bono Institute, a nonprofit consulting group based in Washington, D.C. “We’ve seen some pieces [of Intel's strategy elsewhere] … but having an actual formal RFP process hasn’t been done before.”

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