In September 2012, the APBCo Board of Directors, along with the managing partners of our Board member firms, were invited to a meeting in the White House with Vice President Joe Biden to discuss issues of access to justice. Much like the historic meeting held 50 years earlier by President Kennedy to rally the legal community in support of civil rights workers in the South (which resulted in the creation of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights), the Vice President challenged our community of firms to enhance our commitments to improving and expanding the delivery of legal services to the underserved. We pledged to him that we would launch a series of new collaborations across the country to expand national law firm efforts to increase access to justice. Thus was born APBCo IMPACT (Involving More Pro bono Attorneys in our Community Together).
With the Vice President’s enthusiasm for our mission, APBCO has convened community leaders to develop innovative approaches to addressing issues as ingrained as protecting survivors of domestic violence, re-entry to society after incarceration, immigration assistance, homelessness and financial security, legal guidance for small businesses, creating access to legal aid in remote rural regions of the country. What sets IMPACT projects apart is not only the high degree of multi-institutional cooperation (law firms, legal services, law schools, corporations, public officials, community banking providers), but the inversion of the traditional pro bono-legal services formula. With IMPACT, law firms are proactively identifying the unmet chronic need, designing the intervention, and launching the projects, while seeking out essential partners, and often providing funding too.
In July 2014, the APBCo Board returned to the White House and met with Vice President Biden a second time, reporting on the continued success of ten projects that had been launched around the country. Included in that report were descriptions of our progress and plans to continue looking for ways to apply this unique service delivery model to better serve low-income communities and vulnerable populations throughout the United States.