November 15, 2015

Business Law Pro Bono: Robert Scott Is Leading by Example

Kathleen Hopkins

There is an adage we hear often at the ABA: “If you want something done, ask a busy person.” Pennsylvania business lawyer Robert (Bob) Scott epitomizes the adage, and is an inspirational role model for business lawyers who want to provide pro bono and public service in a manner that will leverage their skill sets and maximize their impact. At the 2015 Business Law Section Spring Meeting in San Francisco, the Section presented Bob with its National Public Service Award, in recognition of his work with Philadelphia VIP and in his community.

Like many of us, Bob is a busy professional. He began as in-house counsel at UNISYS and General Instrument before transitioning into business strategy work as senior vice president of business strategy at Motorola and then as executive vice president and general counsel at TE Connectivity. Throughout his career, Bob utilized his legal background to influence the business sector in great ways. When Bob joined the TE team in 2007, he noticed a lack of a corporate social responsibility program. In 2010, he helped create the TE Responsibility Advantage (TERA) which supports and expands the firm’s global corporate responsibility efforts. The program implements environmentally sustainable building regulations, promotes community service, and integrates a culture of social consciousness into the firm’s practices. In 2014, TE Connectivity was named to Dow Jones Sustainability North American Index for the third consecutive year, an achievement Bob worked hard to earn.

Also throughout his career, Bob regularly volunteered (and continues to volunteer) as a pro bono lawyer. Bob began working as a pro bono volunteer through Philadelphia VIP in 1991 and has since then assisted numerous clients. Most of Bob’s VIP pro bono work involves resolving legal matters within VIP’s LawWorks/Small Business practice area. As an avid small business clinic attendee, Bob uses his business law background to provide intensive legal advice to low-income microentrepreneurs concerning their start-up business adventures. In addition, he has ventured outside the comfort zone of business law, and also taken on guardianship, homeownership, and wills and estates cases.

True to the busy person adage, VIP recognized Bob’s business acumen and strategic thinking, and tapped him to also chair VIP’s new Corporate Advisory Council. That council is charged with developing and implementing projects to incorporate more in-house counsel into VIP’s volunteer attorney ranks. That initiative launched as a pilot in 2014, and Bob is overseeing its success and growth.

We all want to fulfill our ethical and professional obligation to provide pro bono legal services in a meaningful manner. Most of us, however, have skill sets which we do not believe will translate easily or could be effectively used for pro bono representation. Projects like VIP and role models like Bob, prove us wrong. While we may not have the bandwidth to take on as much as Bob, he is an inspiration for us to reconsider how we can leverage our skills, give back in our local community, and fulfill our ethical and professional pro bono obligations.

Throughout the country, the Business Law Section supports numerous business law pro bono projects, like Philadelphia VIP. Those projects provide opportunities for local business lawyers to assist nonprofits and microentrepreneurs. Volunteers often include in-house counsel, other law-trained corporate officers and employees, private practitioners, government lawyers, retired business lawyers, and law students. These projects provide opportunities for volunteers to work within their comfort zone: providing non-litigation, business law pro bono advice and assistance.

For information on business (and other) pro bono projects in your community, please go to the ABA’s National Pro Bono Volunteer Opportunities Guide. This interactive map provides information on all pro bono projects within certain areas of law, and offers advanced search functions to narrow down your search to certain counties and areas of law.

Additional Resources

For other materials on this topic, please refer to the following. 

Consumer Financial Services Committee Newsletter 

Bank of America Legal Department’s Annual Wills-on-Wheels Clinic
By Todd Stillerman 

Business Law Section Program Library

Pro Bono Service on a Board of a Not for Profit in Crisis: Fulfilling Your Not for Profit’s Mission during Financial Distress (PDF) (Audio)
Presented by: Business Bankruptcy Committee
Co-Sponsored by Business Bankruptcy Committee, Bankruptcy Court Structure and Insolvency Committee, and Nonprofit Organizations Committee
Location: 2015 Annual Meeting

Kathleen Hopkins

Kathleen Hopkins is a Seattle commercial real estate lawyer, former Chair of the Section’s Pro Bono Committee, and current Vice Chair of the ABA Presidential Working Group on Unaccompanied Minors in Immigration.