Monica Karuturi With a master’s in health policy in addition to her J.D., Monica Karuturi is devoted to bettering her community. When she joined LyondellBasell, she took her service roots with her, launching an active pro bono program within the company. What was your motivation for starting the program at LyondellBasell? I really believe that corporations need to have a stronger presence in the pro bono community. Law firms have been doing it for some time, but given the unmet needs that we have in our community for legal services, if we can have more corporations mobilize to provide pro bono services, we’re going to be able to do so much more. There’s no way we as a community can address that gap unless attorneys from companies step up to do their part. When I came to this company and learned there was no pro bono program, that was a goal of mine. Have you seen the program affect office culture? We generally all have our practice areas, and unless there is a matter that happens to overlap, we tend to work with our own individual clients. Pro bono has brought together attorneys who might not normally get to work together. In that way, it’s really enhanced our team building and bonding as a department. It’s given us something to all rally behind. I think it also helps all of us continue to challenge and stretch ourselves to learn areas that we aren’t comfortable with and to develop skills that we don’t typically use. When you think about the work you have done individually, is there a case that sticks out as being especially rewarding or memorable? The case that will always have a special place for me is the first one that I did; it sparked my passion for all of this. That was an asylum case where we were helping a gentleman from Columbia who was suffering political persecution. Helping him and his family get a fresh start in life was rewarding, particularly given what he had been through. At the time, I remember being so nervous about wanting to do a good job for him because it felt like a matter of life or death for someone. I was thrilled that we were able to help him and his family get the security they needed. Do you have any role models in the pro bono community? My role models are really the other volunteers that I’ve come across who give so much to the pro bono cause. There are so many people doing good work. We tend to focus on the gaps, but when you start participating in these matters, you see how much people do, how important it is to them, and how much they sacrifice. That’s really inspiring. What advice would you have for someone wanting to participate in pro bono activities? I would advise them to start with their local bar organizations because all local bar organizations have established activities. If their place of work doesn’t offer a running program, that’s a great place to start. The local bar organizations do a good job of providing a range of commitment, so if you can only commit a short amount of time, opportunities like the legal hotline or doing a clinic where it’s a one-time commitment are a great way to get started. Then when you have more time or more comfort to do longer-term matters, you can take a full case.
Published by State Bar of Texas. View All Articles.
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