Thousands of Viacom employees recently spread out across the world to clean, paint, plant and sand the nonprofit organizations at the heart of their communities. The mass effort was part of the 21st Viacommunity Day, an annual outpouring of goodwill that underscores the company’s commitment to social responsibility. But while many employees were flexing unfamiliar muscles that day, a group of company lawyers stationed on the 31st floor of the company’s Times Square headquarters unsheathed their legal skills to staff an intake clinic for foreign citizens beginning the U.S. naturalization process.
It was a moving scene – people with few resources, intimidated by language and cultural barriers, comprehending for the first time that they could move toward citizenship – but not at all unusual for Viacom’s Law team, which devotes considerable resources to pro bono work each year.
Because of this deep commitment to helping those in need, Viacom Law earned a spot as a distinguished honoree at the Lawyers Alliance for New York’s 2017 Business Law & Leadership Gala. The annual event – held this year at Manhattan’s Gotham Hall – honors businesses and individuals committed to improving New York City by offering pro bono services to nonprofit organizations.
“The Viacom Law Department is a leader in the corporate pro bono bar,” Lawyers Alliance noted in their press release announcing the gala. “Under Christa D’Alimonte, Viacom’s Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, the Viacom Law Department continues to make pro bono legal services a priority for its attorneys.”
D’Alimonte stressed the importance of pro bono work to Viacom in general and to the Law team in particular. “The Law Department’s commitment to pro bono work is fundamental to our culture and core values, and reflects Viacom’s commitment to contribute to the communities in which we work and live,” she said.
Lawyers possess a specialized and highly valued skillset, one that is essential for the proper functioning of society but is often opaque and inaccessible to those who need it the most. “We know that now, perhaps more than ever, our legal skills can be used to help those in need who cannot afford the costs of legal representation – which is a right that should be available to all, and not a privilege reserved for some,” said D’Alimonte.
The legal team works throughout the year to extend this right, collaborating with organizations serving low-income individuals and communities in need. The company has a particularly strong relationship with Lawyers Alliance, partnering with them on legal clinics in each of the past five years. Working through the organization, Viacom connects with nonprofits that need counseling to navigate new state legal requirements or to handle bylaw and governance issues. A recent series of pro bono legal clinics gathered attorneys from Viacom and other in-house legal departments to train nonprofits on waiver and release reviews.
That the Law Department can spare the resources for pro bono work is a reflection of the team’s overall strength. Last year, Corporate Counsel, a leading source of legal news, named Viacom to its list of best corporate legal departments.