This week we spoke with Nicole (Nici) Eichberger who recently joined the ABA Standing Committee for Pro Bono and Public Service. Mrs. Eichberger is a Senior Associate in the Employee Benefits, Executive Compensation & ERISA Litigation Group and Pro Bono Co-Coordinator in the New Orleans office of Proskauer Rose LLP. She shares with us her experience working in a large law firm practice while prioritizing a commitment to pro bono.
Tell us a bit about the pro bono structure at Proskauer?
When I came to Proskauer, I joined as part of a larger group that moved to the New Orleans office in October of 2004. Shortly after that move, Proskauer made a pro bono commitment somewhat less formally structured than the program we have today. The program at that time grew from work that was connected to the recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina. In the beginning, our group consistently participated in pro bono: we had a criminal case, participated in U.S. District Court Judge Jay Zainey’s Homeless Experience Legal Protection (HELP) Program (now a nationwide program) and handled various other individual pro bono matters. Our New Orleans office comprises 14 attorneys, and our commitment to pro bono is universal.
After 2004, Proskauer increased its pro bono commitment by forming a Pro Bono Committee. The committee’s chairs are charged by Proskauer’s Executive Committee to increase pro bono across the firm by truly committing to a strong pro bono policy and ensuring that there are opportunities for our lawyers. The Pro Bono Committee is composed of office coordinators in each office, as well as representatives in each of the firm’s departments. The committee really does have a good ear for pro bono across the firm – both geographically and by practice – through the participation of the office coordinators and department representatives.
What led you to your position as Pro Bono Co-Coordinator for Proskauer’s New Orleans office?
I was asked based in part on my own pro bono work. When my group joined Proskauer, I volunteered for a lawyer who was very involved in pro bono. That lawyer moved to Australia, and I inherited her work, including organizing pro bono projects for the New Orleans Office. I have always tried to maintain some level of pro bono work and my role as co-coordinator for the New Orleans office was a natural progression from there. I am big on effective structural organization so the fit was perfect, especially because I try to keep Pro bono on my work plate.
In the interim, I was asked by the ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law to serve as management co-chair of its pro bono committee. Within my first year in that position on that committee, we were able to implement a model pro bono policy for the section which encouraged our members to get involved in pro bono service. With that came a commitment from the section to ensure that there is pro bono programming each year during their annual conference. It really was a great achievement.
Please come back Wednesday to see part two of our interview with Nicole Eichberger.