BMO legal department’s pro bono efforts cross borders

Theresa Ducket says it’s not difficult to get buy-in for pro bono from her team

By Julius Melnitzer | April 21, 2023

Law firms seem to do a much better job touting their pro bono work – not to mention themselves –  than do in-house legal departments.

Surprising it may be, then, to discover that more than 100 legal departments participated in staffing Pro Bono Ontario’s free legal advice hotline in the last 18 months. The service, which took 30,000 calls in 2022, offers up to 30 minutes of free civil law (but not family, immigration or criminal law) advice to individual Ontarians Monday to Friday, 9-5.

“In-house lawyers are great, great contributors and critical to our program,” said Yonit Fuhrman, PBO’s Toronto-based deputy director. “Of the 13 sponsored days or weeks we had last year, nine involved legal departments.”

Chicago-based Theresa Duckett, associate general counsel & VP at BMO Financial Group, leads a cross-border legal team that represents BMO’s North American commercial and corporate cards portfolio as well as all the Canadian retail banking operation’s commercial transactions. Among her accomplishments are the development and implementation of a global pro bono team for the group, an endeavour that began in 2015.

In-house lawyers, Duckett said, are uniquely suited to deal with the diverse issues that arise in broadly-based consumer legal assistance programs such as PBO’s hotline. MORE . . .

Julius Melnitzer is a Toronto-based legal affairs writer, ghostwriter, writing coach and media trainer. Readers can reach him at [email protected] or


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