Photo by Carmen Natale/ALM.  Left to right: Sylvia Sytsma, Jing-Kai Syz, Jennifer Sokalski, WIlliam O’Shaughnessy, Laura Civello, Michael Prevoznik, Kim Uva, Amer Pharaon, Katie McCann, John Blaha, Keena Hausmann, Dina Mack

The legal department at Quest Diagnostics had a noteworthy 2017. The department’s lawyers have engaged in pro bono work in years past, but its formal pro bono program is newly formed. That, and the resulting pro bono clinic described below, are noteworthy in themselves, but the department’s work last year really tells the story. Among the programs helped were Magical Healing of Wayne, which trains young people in performing magic to benefit communities such as veterans, seniors and children’s hospitals (the Quest lawyers created what Magical Healing has described as complex contract documents). Some 25 Quest lawyers participated in a 2017 training program, and advised numerous organizations on regulatory, transactional and other important issues.

** The responses were provided by Anne Cote, Keena Hausmann, Katie McCann and Jing-Kai Syz of the Quest Diagnostics legal department’s pro bono team. **

What are your proudest pro bono achievements of 2017, and why?

While there may have been many pro bono achievements over the years, the most significant accomplishment in 2017 was the creation of a department pro bono team and the opportunity for the team to organize and offer a Pro Bono Clinic at the 2017 Quest Diagnostics’ Legal Summit in Parsippany, New Jersey. The event was made possible through our longstanding collaborative relationship with the Pro Bono Partnership. The legal summit was a three-day, off-site meeting attended by Quest Diagnostics’ legal department members from around the world. With the support of our general counsel, Mike Prevoznik, an entire morning was dedicated to allowing all of the members of the Quest Diagnostics legal department to donate their time and provide legal guidance and expertise to multiple nonprofit organizations in attendance at the clinic. This interactive event not only demonstrated Quest Diagnostics’ commitment to positively impact the communities we serve, but also provided a rewarding experience for all members of the department who are passionate about giving back to others.

Why are pro bono engagements important for a legal department?

Many of us pursued a legal career because we want to be a positive contributor to society. Being in private practice, especially with the legal department of a health care company, has allowed us to do so somewhat indirectly. Pro bono work allows us to engage more directly with “doing good.” While we choose the causes closest to heart, we have the opportunity to see the breadth of the good work that so many organizations perform—and realize the opportunities we have to assist in their efforts. Also, exposure to nonprofit companies improves the service we deliver to our corporate clients. After all, all clients have the same common denominator: they need help solving a problem. And the skills needed to do so—defining the problem, open communications and developing workable solutions that the client understands and can implement—translate from private practice to pro bono work, and vice versa.

How does the team address the challenges of carving out time for pro bono work and choosing which pro bono projects to tackle?

As noted above, at the 2017 Legal Summit, several hours were carved out of the agenda for pro bono counseling. Legal department members were assigned to work with nonprofits based upon legal expertise. This invaluable team-building experience enabled department members to collaborate with colleagues on matters outside of Quest Diagnostics. In addition, individual members of the legal department are passionate about and driven by causes due to their life circumstances or situations. Our emotions about a particular organization drive us to volunteer our time to either promote awareness, raise money or to lend a helping hand. Finding the time to do pro bono work is made easier given the realization of tremendous personal and professional satisfaction in improving the lives of others. One does not need to dedicate significant hours to volunteer, as even the smallest actions can make a big difference!

What is the most effective time-management tool or technique your team employs?

Since we all have many projects and priorities to juggle on a daily basis, the unknown (but not unexpected) urgent matters that pop up from time to time can easily derail the best made plans. Time management is, therefore, critical to our jobs and how we perform. How we take on each project and task drives time management. To put structure around projects and the way we approach tasks, whether known or unexpected, that comprise most of our time at work, our department follows the company’s project-management process. The process begins with the careful definition of a charter with stakeholders, then specifies discrete action items with co-dependencies and supplemented with timetables, milestones and follow-ups. Breaking down projects in this manner allow easy visualization of the tasks at hand, status and any gating issues, which all facilitate better time management.

What is your best advice for in-house lawyers trying to make an impact, with their corporate clients and beyond?

The most effective lawyers are those who know their clients well and can anticipate their needs. This is true regardless of whether the client is corporate or pro bono. Be proactive in getting to know your clients and understanding their business or mission. The lawyers who do this are best positioned to make a positive impact on their corporate and pro bono clients alike.