Ten Questions with: Bloomberg’s EMEA Pro Bono Committee leads

Contributed by
30 Sep 2021

We sat down with Mia Motiee and Mitesh Jagatia, Regulatory Compliance Officer and Counsel respectively at Bloomberg L.P. to discuss the incredible pro bono work they carry out with their team and in conjunction with the In House Pro Bono Group, the challenges that Covid-19 posed to pro bono work, what the future holds and more.

1. Like many organisations, you’ve aligned your pro bono initiatives with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. What made you choose SDGs 4, 5 and 13 (Quality Education, Gender Equality and Climate Action)?

We wanted to align our pro bono program with both the company’s values and those areas of law and policy that interest and inspire the members of our Legal and Compliance department. We have found that participation and engagement are stronger when we offer projects that address topics that are close to our volunteers’ hearts and values. While we are interested in a broad range of topics, we found that these three topics allowed us to explore a broad range of projects while focusing our core pro bono work.

2. The Bloomberg EMEA Legal and Compliance department reached 100% pro bono participation in both 2019 and 2020, which is a remarkable achievement. What advice would you give to other in-house legal teams looking to increase their pro bono engagement?

The most important factors for us have been senior support and participation. When senior leaders encourage the team to participate — and then actually participate alongside their colleagues — the entire department feels encouraged to volunteer. We also try to tailor at least some aspects of the pro bono offerings to the interests of the volunteers. We send out an annual survey checking in and asking for feedback on the program from the members of the department. The results from this help us see what is working and what we should adjust for the following year’s program.

3. What has been the impact of such high levels of pro bono participation within your department?

High levels of department participation inspire our pro bono leads to find more interesting projects. We find that when the department feels energised and excited to volunteer, that we do as well.

4. How do you go about finding the high quality partnerships with organisations like Imperial College that facilitates your pro bono work?

We have been really fortunate to work with some truly amazing organisations. Some of our relationships started with personal connections from previous roles, some were brought to us through Bloomberg’s Corporate Philanthropy team, and yet others started from literally cold-calling (or emailing) the pro bono directors at some firms or institutions and asking for a meeting. We have always found that people have opened their doors for us and have been happy to guide us through the early challenges of establishing our pro bono program here in EMEA. I think our best advice here would be “Don’t be shy”. People want to help and they welcome support. You simply have to ask “What can we do? How can we provide assistance?” We have found that simply being open to offering assistance can be the start of some pretty incredible and fruitful pro bono partnerships.

5. Your assistance with the London Community Response Fund is a great example of using your organisation’s unique business capabilities in a pro bono context. How did this come about? And what advice would you give to other organisations looking to leverage their own capabilities in this way?

Bloomberg L.P. quickly offered support for new COVID-19 response efforts when the pandemic began. One such effort was as the founding corporate partner of the London Community Response Fund (“LCRF”), an emergency fund focused on supporting civil society and cultural nonprofits across London. By the end of 2020, LCRF had grown to 65 funders, including the Mayor of London, and distributed nearly £42 million to over 2,000 nonprofits across the city and hundreds of for-profit cultural venues and organizations at risk of closing due to the pandemic, including small music venues, independent cinemas, and LGBTQ+ venues.

Our Corporate Philanthropy team led Bloomberg’s efforts within the LCRF. The team needed help assessing grant applications during the multiple funding rounds. Our close partnership with Corporate Philanthropy resulted in the Legal and Compliance department coming on board quickly to lend our expertise and manpower to assess hundreds of applications.

We would encourage in-house legal and compliance functions, whenever possible, to collaborate with their CSR/Philanthropy departments to enable their organisations to provide holistic skills-based support.

6. How has your involvement with the In House Pro Bono Group informed your pro bono activity over the last year?

We are both part of the Steering Committee of the In House Pro Bono Group (“IHPBG”), a UK group whose aim is to promote pro bono activity across the legal industry in the UK, and have learned so much from our colleagues and members. Being connected to the IHPBG over the past year was vital to our successful program because we were able to speak with other pro bono leads in in-house practice to understand how their organisations were adjusting to home-based pro bono work. We hit some snags along the way, but having a sounding board through which to seek advice and provide guidance where we could was integral to our success during the pandemic. Our fellow Steering Committee members have been prominent forces in the pro bono space and we benefit from their experience. We also try to coordinate work within the group, to share opportunities where possible, and introduce organisations to one another.

7. What challenges has remote working and the COVID-19 pandemic presented for your pro bono programme?

We had to figure out how to provide diverse projects from home. Not everyone wants to do desk-based pro bono research projects, and we understand that creating a diverse pro bono offering is key to our success. As a result, we had to re-group and adjust our plans for 2020 in the middle of the year. Luckily, so many of our partnerships did move from in-person to online, but we were faced with the challenge of finding interesting work for pro bono opportunities from home. We were originally concerned that our participation would be impacted, but found that providing more desk-based or online opportunities aside from research (such as LCRF) worked well for some, and participation happily did not suffer. Going forward, we will continue to offer more desk-based work so that those colleagues who prefer participating in this way will have ample opportunity to do so. Our key takeaway from the past year has been to be flexible!

8. What does 2021 look like for your department’s pro bono work?

We are so excited about our work in the climate action space this year. We have a big project that we are working on with Imperial College and will announce details on that in the coming weeks. We are also looking forward to continuing our partnership with Ropes & Gray and Queen Mary University of London on the qLegal clinics, as well as some new initiatives with Sidley Austin. We have a few more partnerships that we are in the early stages of developing, but most of it continues to relate to the UN’s SDGs that we are building our program around.

9. Do you have a favourite story or testimonial from your team’s pro bono work?

We developed a brand new mentoring project where Legal and Compliance colleagues from across the department (along with other corporates and law firms) mentor Queen Mary University of London postgraduate law students. We were proud to receive glowing feedback from the mentees that the program had real impact. Indeed, one mentee reported that their mentor (our EMEA Head of Compliance) helped them secure their dream job! The program goes from strength to strength and we were thrilled to relaunch the program with new mentors/mentees this year.

10. Is there anything else you would like to share or highlight with our audience?

We invite everyone interested in pro bono to join the In House Pro Bono Group and to help us keep building the UK in-house pro bono community. We are more knowledgeable, more committed, and have more impact when we all work together.