Guggenheim Partners' Pro Bono Committee
In House Pro Bono Stories
We sat down with Alejandro Galindo of Guggenheim Partners to talk about their pro bono committee.
How long has your organisation had a pro bono committee and how is it structured?
The committee started in 2017. It was set up by our current director and approved by the General Counsel, the Chief Legal Officer and the firm’s Chief Operating Officer. I understand our GC had been wanting to do it for a while and our program director had been involved for years with pro bono and CSR. It has seven members and is a joint programme between the legal and compliance departments. It has a programme director and a secretary that helps with administrative tasks, but all committee members are volunteers with day jobs.
How do you define “pro bono”?
We have our own broad definition, encompassing the traditional aspects of pro bono, meaning providing direct legal advice to persons with limited resources. But we also include other activities such as clinics and student mentorships as pro bono work. For instance, a couple of years ago, the London team participated in a “legal experts in schools” module with Young Citizens, giving mini-interactive lectures to students in a state school in Wapping, and we consider this to be within the definition.
How do you source projects?
A lot of projects come from our partner law firms. A smaller portion are self-sourced through our broader CSR department. For example, during the early months of the pandemic, our CSR team helped us set up a clinic to provide legal corporate advice to entrepreneurs and people affected by the lockdown and in that instance we invited one of our partner firms to join us. We typically do not have sperate insurance and that is one of the main benefits of partnering with firms.
Do you have an internal approval process for projects?
Working on pro bono matters with previously approved organisations just requires notice to the committee, or a separate, more involved process if they have not been previously approved. The committee checks any conflicts and analyses the project’s suitability (matter adequate for pro bono representation, workload involved, sufficient supervision or training to carry the activity, among others).
How do you encourage employee engagement/motivation?
Engagement is definitely cyclical. There is a core team of people who do pro bono and it's not always easy to motivate others. But we have been successful by having projects that are very well-timed and topical. For example, the entrepreneur project during lockdown as well as a project we did in 2022 for asylum seekers detained on the US border, conducting intake interviews to screen for eligibility.
Also, senior members of the team are quite active in pro bono and that helps to encourage junior members who see their managers or team leaders setting an example and participating.
Do you track data around your pro bono projects/employee engagement and if so, how?
We ask participants to record their time and report to the committee at end of the year. That information is then consolidated into a single log by the committee secretary.
How do you reward pro bono within your organisation?
It is considered favourably in a person's yearly performance review. One of the questions employees are required to answer relates to pro bono / CSR work and it is definitely taken into account when considering advancement within the company. In the past we have also tried giving small prizes at the end of the year for people who have done the most pro bono hours.
Name either one ask for additional support or one key challenge that you are working on?
It would be good to brainstorm with other in-house organisations around motivation and how to make people more engaged in the long term. Like most organisations we can struggle to involve people – some projects get lots of participation and other have way less. But it doesn’t always correlate with the opportunity itself. We try to keep track of the popular projects and offer similar ones more often, but even those are sometimes not as demanded. We also have the usual limitations around insurance and are grateful to our partner law firms, but we would like the freedom to choose or set up our own projects.