BENTONVILLE, Ark., Nov. 22, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- The Walmart legal department announced plans to undertake an in-house pro bono program in which its attorneys, paralegals, and support staff will participate in legal aid projects in the Arkansas community. In doing so, Walmart has become the 100th signatory to the national Corporate Pro Bono Challenge(SM), a voluntary benchmark developed and administered by Corporate Pro Bono (CPBO), a partnership project of the Pro Bono Institute (PBI) and the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC), designed to encourage and promote pro bono service with in-house lawyers and legal departments.
In addition, the Walmart legal department and the Walmart Foundation today announced a $115,000 donation to Legal Aid of Arkansas and the Arkansas Access to Justice Commission. The grant will help the Commission continue its efforts to address key issues raised by low-income clients, including family law, consumer practice, financial, housing, and employment matters.
"Our pro bono effort is a natural extension of our company's overall belief in being a good corporate citizen," said Jeff Gearhart, executive vice president and general counsel of Walmart. "Helping to ensure that access to legal services is a reality for all of our citizens, regardless of their ability to pay, is consistent with Walmart's commitment to making a difference in the communities that we serve."
"We are delighted to have Walmart sign on as the 100th Signatory to the Corporate Pro Bono Challenge," said Esther Lardent, president and CEO of PBI. "As one of the largest companies in the world, Walmart's commitment to pro bono, including the hiring of a dedicated pro bono staff lawyer, sets a high bar for the corporate community."
Among the state's legal aid champions, many believe that Walmart's program will have a domino effect on other Arkansas corporations.
Jim Julian, president of the Arkansas Bar Association added, "I cannot overstate the significance of the pro bono commitment that Walmart has made at a corporate level. This commitment will result in the provision of services worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to Arkansans needing help with civil legal issues. In addition, Walmart's leadership in implementing such a program will serve as a model to other corporate legal departments and law firms in the state that are looking to increase their pro bono involvement."
"Walmart has once again demonstrated its commitment to empowering low-income Arkansans through the mobilization of both the financial and human resources needed to ensure that all citizens of our state have access to civil legal help," said Justice Annabelle Imber Tuck, chair of the Arkansas Access to Justice Commission. "Financial support and pro bono involvement are both necessary if we are to close the justice gap in Arkansas, and we are tremendously grateful for Walmart's leadership on both fronts."
The $115,000 award from the Walmart Foundation will assist Legal Aid of Arkansas in funding its Medical-Legal Partnership with Mid-Delta Health Systems, which serves patients in six of Arkansas' poorest counties, located in the Mississippi River Delta area.
About Philanthropy at Walmart
Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are proud to support the charitable causes that are important to customers and associates in their own neighborhoods. The Walmart Foundation funds initiatives focused on education, workforce development, economic opportunity, environmental sustainability, and health and wellness. From Feb. 1, 2009 through Jan. 31, 2010, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation gave more than $512 million in cash and in-kind gifts globally, $467 million of which was donated in the U.S. To learn more, visit www.walmartfoundation.org.
About The Arkansas Access to Justice Commission
The Arkansas Access to Justice Commission works to provide equal access to justice in civil cases to all Arkansans. The Commission's major projects include educating the public about poverty in Arkansas, recruiting pro bono attorneys, supporting courts and self-represented individuals and soliciting contributions for legal aid. Contributions to the Arkansas Access to Justice Commission are divided between the state's two legal aid organizations according to their poverty populations.
About Legal Aid of Arkansas
Legal Aid of Arkansas is a non-profit corporation with a vision to improve the lives of low-income Arkansans by championing equal access to justice regardless of economic or social circumstances. Legal Aid of Arkansas serves 31 counties in Arkansas and provides free legal help with civil legal matters to those who qualify. If you or someone you know needs help with a legal problem, have a question you think a lawyer should answer or have been sued and don't know where to turn, call the Legal Aid Hotline at 1-800-952-9243.
About Corporate Pro Bono
Corporate Pro Bono, a partnership project of the Pro Bono Institute and the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC), is designed to substantially increase the amount of pro bono work performed by in-house counsel and to enhance the pro bono culture of in-house legal departments through technical assistance to the in-house community, targeted research and publications, online information and services, and outreach and educational programming. Corporate Pro Bono also works closely with ACC chapters to focus their resources and agendas on pro bono service.
About the Pro Bono Institute
Established in 1996, PBI is a nonprofit organization with a mandate to explore and identify new approaches to the poor and disadvantaged unable to secure legal assistance to address critical problems. In doing so, PBI identifies and develops innovative programs and undertakes rigorous evaluations to ensure that these new approaches are workable and effective. PBI administers a number of projects designed to enhance access to justice, including: the Law Firm Pro Bono Project®, Corporate Pro Bono, Second Acts®, Global Pro Bono, and Public Interest Pro Bono.
About the Association of Corporate Counsel
The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC), PBI's partner in launching and administering CPBO, is the world's largest organization serving the professional and business interests of attorneys who practice in the legal departments of corporations, associations, and other private-sector organizations around the globe. With more than 26,000 members employed by over 10,000 organizations in more than 76 countries, ACC connects its members to each other, and to the resources necessary for personal and professional growth.