Ford receives honor for its pro bono work

Corporate Pro Bono (CPBO) honored Ford Motor Co. recently with the CPBO Partner Award for its pro bono partnerships to serve the needs of the local community. This is the first time Ford has received the prestigious honor, which recognizes the company’s commitment to good corporate citizenship.

“At Ford, we have a strategic goal to provide opportunities for our attorneys to perform meaningful pro bono service,” said David Leitch, general counsel and group vice president of Ford. “It’s important to support the communities in which we build and sell vehicles. This award recognizes the hard work of our Ford team and builds the momentum for our pro bono work for 2013.”

CPBO is a partnership project of the Pro Bono Institute (PBI) and the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC). The CPBO award recognizes unique pro bono partnerships between in-house legal departments, law firms, and public interest organizations.

Looking to revamp its pro bono program in 2009, Ford partnered with Dykema Gossett, Legal Aid and Defender Association (LAD), and Michigan Community Resources (MCR) and created two new pro bono projects to directly serve community needs. The programs also aligned Ford’s pro bono program with the automaker’s corporate social responsibility initiatives.

“These unique partnerships epitomize using pro bono to help close the justice gap at the local level,” said PBI President and CEO Esther Lardent. “We commend these organizations for working together to better serve communities that are in need.”

Ford pro bono partner programs include:

Food Stamp Clinic: The Food Stamp Clinic, developed with Ford and LAD, was designed to identify individuals and families who are either eligible to receive food stamps and don’t or are not receiving the amount to which they are entitled. In Detroit, more than one-third of the population lives in poverty, making it one of the poorest large cities in America, yet its citizens were underutilizing the food stamp program. With Ford’s help, the partnership has helped hundreds of clinic participants and has identified tens of thousands of dollars in benefits. 

Nonprofit Survival Series Clinics: Ford, Dykema and MCR developed the Nonprofit Survival Series Clinics to help ensure local nonprofits can continue to serve their constituents. At the clinics, Ford attorneys consult with community-based nonprofit organizations to identify legal issues that threaten their viability and ability to operate. At the beginning of each clinic, Dykema attorneys provide training to Ford volunteers on common issues that nonprofits face, particularly recession-related financial pressures and declining resources. More than 40 percent of the attorneys in Ford’s Office of the General Counsel have participated since the first clinic in 2009, and the program continues to expand in response to community need with the launch of a Contract Review Clinic.

“The fact that more than 40 percent of the lawyers in Ford Motor Company’s Office of the General Counsel participated in the clinics speaks volumes to Ford’s dedication and level of commitment,” stated Veta Richardson, president and CEO of the Association of Corporate Counsel. “Ford’s leadership and service to the community sets a high standard for all organizations. Most importantly, Ford’s program demonstrates that good corporate citizenship is possible even during times of economic downturns.”