Web-based litigation software company iCONECT LLC has thrown its weight behind an unprecedented initiative by offering its law firm clients free licence access to its suite of products for use in pro bono cases. The move will give legal experts working on vital civil rights and justice litigation access to the same tools used in high-profile litigation cases.
The project is ideal for work involving the collaboration of multiple regional offices of a firm on a specific project. Volunteer lawyers, law students and legal aid lawyers will have access to various resources and to the same technology as other high-profile cases, such as contact management, discussion forums, archiving of reference material and news and document repositories.
iCONECT announced that it would launch the initiative after the idea was mooted by the Chicago office of Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw. A group of pro bono licences have been granted to the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), which is utilising an iCONECT installation at Mayer Brown.
Marc Kadish, director of pro bono activities at Mayer Brown, said the firm is active in integrating charitable contributions into its pro bono programme, and has donated $1m (£557,800) to public interest community groups, including death penalty groups. As a result of a breadth of interest in death penalty work firmwide, Mayer Brown has been collaborating with the University of Michigan, the University of Columbia and the American Bar Association (ABA) on NAACP defence fund work.
“A lot of disparate information and cases are involved and we were unsure how best to catalogue and systemise our efforts. The NAACP asked us how, as a large firm, we usually handled huge volumes of materials. We then went to our in-house automated support people, who routinely coordinate vast litigation materials on a national and international level on huge antitrust and asbestos class actions, and asked them for help,” said Kadish.
Kadish said the collaboration had sparked further interest from technology companies. “In February, iCONECT got in touch with us and were very helpful,” he explained. “They set up private websites for information-sharing, which signified the first time iCONECT products had been used for pro bono. In this case, the licences are being used in a study of cases in which capital sentences were imposed and carried out.” LexisNexis also offered its support.
Kadish said he sees multinational firms as no different to huge corporations in terms of corporate responsibility. “I want all citizens to be involved in community work, and it’s elitist to think that only lawyers can become involved,” he insisted. “I’m busy trying to find things that everyone can contribute to and attempt to involve people with different skills.”