1 + 1 = 3: How Cross-Industry Partnerships Create a Win-Win-Win

By Joanna Calabrese, Corporate Social Responsibility and Alumni Relations Manager, O’Melveny

In spring 2018, attorneys from Bank of America, Warner Bros., and O’Melveny teamed up to host a pro bono expungement clinic in partnership with the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA) to help low-income clients expunge past eligible criminal convictions. These convictions can present serious barriers to, among other challenges, housing, employment, and education. Bank of America invited their nonprofit partners A Community of FriendsCovenant House, and Homeboy Industries to send clients to the clinic as well.

During the clinic, more than 20 attorneys from Bank of America, Warner Bros., and O’Melveny served more than 20 clients with more than 40 criminal convictions between them by helping these pro bono clients understand the expungement process and assisting them in filling out the pleadings necessary to complete their applications.

Phong Wong, the Pro Bono Director at LAFLA, noted, “In one afternoon and evening, we were able to serve as many clients as it would have taken us more than two weeks to serve at LAFLA. We are so appreciative of the time and dedication it took to put this clinic together.”

One family shared that due to a decades-old DUI conviction, their one-year-old child had yet to be allowed to travel to Canada to meet his grandparents. With the expungement of his parent’s conviction, a much‑awaited trip was already in the works.

“The gratefulness in the room was palpable,” reported David Lash, O’Melveny’s Managing Counsel for Pro Bono and Public Interest Services.

One of Bank of America’s attorneys shared that this was her first time participating in a pro bono clinic. She commented, “Serving these clients is the right thing to do and we are so grateful for the opportunity! I will definitely participate again!” David Iden, an O’Melveny associate who volunteered at the clinic, remarked, “The clients seeking expungement were great folks looking to get back on track after a small bump in the road. To help them along that path was tremendously rewarding.”

Spearheaded by Stephanie Lomibao, SVP, ESG Philanthropy Program Manager at Bank of America, Rochelle Karr, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility & Alumni Relations, and David Lash (both at O’Melveny), and the LAFLA Expungement team, the expungement clinic (and reception that followed) took over most of the 18th floor of O’Melveny’s downtown office for the memorable evening. LAFLA pre-interviewed and prepared each of the case files and hosted a comprehensive training for clinic participants.

“LAFLA did a terrific job organizing a productive and memorable clinic,” noted Kathryn Turner, an O’Melveny associate and clinic volunteer.

By collaborating across industries to serve a common cause, Bank of America, Warner Bros., and O’Melveny worked seamlessly together with their nonprofit partners. The clients received critical pro bono assistance and the participating volunteer attorneys were able to spend some quality time together working toward a meaningful goal.

Takeaways for successful cross-industry partnerships include:

  • Discover a shared purpose and know specifically what you are trying to accomplish together.
  • Have a clear strategy, measures, and outcomes.
  • Think about what specific skillsets you can bring to the partnership.
  • Ensure that a collaboration makes more sense than going it alone.
  • Define the roles and schedule:
    • Designate a leader and a champion.
    • Identify the timeline, project plan, and the support you will need.
    • Schedule regular planning calls well in advance of the event and include all relevant team members.
    • Coordinate with your partners’ marketing teams to align on social media coverage and other external promotion.
  • Ask your partners:
    • What CSR impact areas are you working to address?
    • Are there any challenges or pain points you’re experiencing?
    • How can we work together to achieve a greater impact?
  • Listen deeply.
  • Communication is key.
  • Post event follow up:
    • Give credit where credit is due.
    • Share lessons learned.
    • Post pictures and blurbs on social media.
    • If appropriate, share an event write-up both internally and externally.
    • For anything shared externally request permission from external guests.

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