paying it forward
Pro Bono Push
American Airlines’ legal department sets mile-high
standards for its pro bono initiative. By Cathleen Flahardy
“We saw a need in the community, and in line
with our corporate mission, we decided it was time to
start giving back.” These words have been uttered by
many corporate counsel explaining why their departments decided to implement a formal corporate pro
bono program. And while American Airlines wasn’t
different in this respect, after the program had been
in place a few years, the airline kicked it up a notch.
Through the leadership of AA’s General Counsel
Gary Kennedy, the legal department instituted its formal pro bono initiative back in early 2005. “Some of
our lawyers were doing pro bono work on their own,
but Gary wanted to make more of a concerted effort.
So he had his team put together a policy,” explains
Marjorie Powell, senior attorney at AA and the
department’s pro bono coordinator.
Initially, Kennedy didn’t require participation in the program, and still a majority of the
department’s lawyers were actively involved.
But in 2009, Kennedy decided to require all
of his attorneys to join the effort for 10 hours
“It was a little scary saying we are going to make
it mandatory, because other companies weren’t doing
that,” Powell says. “But we felt like some people may
have cold feet doing something out of their comfort
zone, and we wanted to give them that extra push.”
To maximize efficiency, AA’s legal department
works closely with the Dallas Volunteer Attorney
Program (DVAP), which has a mission to enhance pro
bono legal services to the poor in Dallas through the
recruitment, training and support of volunteer attor-
neys. AA also partners with law firms Haynes & Boone,
Hunton & Williams and Kelly Hart & Hallman.
Through DVAP’s training and partnerships with
law firms, AA’s legal department has gone to great
lengths to service the underprivileged of its commu-
nity over the years. The work ranges from helping the
elderly create wills to participating in clinics to simply
answer legal questions and offer advice, handle cases,
and even help complete adoptions. The team has been
nominated for several awards for its work.
photography courtsey of american airlines
From left to right: American Airlines’ General Counsel
Gary Kennedy and in-house counsel Marjorie Powell,
Melissa Romig, Jennifer Brandeis, Camille Corbin and