MCB VLP Volunteer Spotlight
March's Volunteer Spotlight is on current Corporate Counsel Section Co-chair Kodwo Ghartey-Tagoe. He played a critical role in 2009 as Duke Energy's Legal Department took the initiative to create a Pro Bono Committee.
MCB VLP: Current Employer / number of years with current employer?
KGT: Duke Energy Corporation / Seven and a half years
MCB VLP: Area of Practice / Expertise?
KGT: Commercial transactions and International
MCB VLP: Law School / Law School Graduation Year?
KGT: Duke University School of Law /1988
MCB VLP: Does Duke Energy have a pro Bono Policy?
KGT: Yes. The Duke Energy Law Department is committed to pro bono service and strongly encourages its members to participate in pro bono service in the communities in which the company operates. To demonstrate our commitment, our Law Department recently signed the Corporate Pro Bono Challenge, which has a principal goal of achieving at least 50% departmental participation in the rendering of pro bono services. Ninety other corporate law departments have accepted the Corporate Pro Bono Challenge.
MCB VLP: What were the first steps to developing a Pro Bono Committee within Duke Energy and how is it structured?
KGT: The Duke Energy Law Department created a Pro Bono Committee in 2009 in response to employee demand for a coordinated effort to support pro bono work. We first formed a study committee to develop a pro bono policy and related guidelines. Ultimately, the study committee (1) benchmarked pro bono policies from other in-house law departments; (2) determined what would fit best for Duke Energy; (3) drafted a proposed Pro Bono Policy for approval by the Law Department Management Team; and (4) compiled a list of pro bono opportunities in each U.S. city where Law Department members are located. The study committee also recommended the creation of the Pro Bono Committee to promote, facilitate and track pro bono legal services rendered by members of the Law Department. To encourage participation, the Company provides malpractice insurance to cover the provision of approved pro bono services by members of the Law Department.
MCB VLP: How many pro bono cases / issues do you typically handle at one time?
KGT: There may be several matters being handled by various members of the Department at any time. The Department recently teamed up with the law firm of Sidley & Austin to help veterans pursue and obtain disability benefits. We expect this to be a long term project. On a personal level, one of my more enjoyable cases was a recent matter in which I helped a local Christian film production company obtain its 501(C)(3) tax exempt certification
MCB VLP: Do you or your colleagues participate in any particular training to handle these cases / issues?
KGT: When necessary. For example, our current Veterans Benefits Project requires some extensive training.
MCB VLP: What is your hope for the future with regard to these cases / issue?
KGT: I hope the Duke Energy Law Department becomes known as a corporate law department that is making a difference in our communities through our pro bono service.
MCB VLP: What is the best advice you've received during your legal career?
KGT: Listen to your clients and care about their problems as if they were your own.
MCB VLP: What is the most challenging part of your career?
KGT: Keeping it balanced with my family!
MCB VLP: Any other pertinent things you would like to share with the Mecklenburg County Bar and legal community?
KGT: I am a big brother (through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Charlotte) of a Third Grader at Walter G Byers Elementary School. I got involved thinking I was going to change my little brother's life and found out the life that's being changed is mine! There are many other kids like my little brother who need mentors. Mentorship can change a life forever - and it could be yours!
Interested in finding more resources to starting a Pro Bono Committee within your firm or legal department? Contact Heather Blackley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 704/375-8624, ext.115.