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  • Growing Pro Bono Work Around the World

    July 26, 2016
    Erica Wang, General Counsel, 3M China and Hong Kong, with colleagues participating in pro bono opportunities.
    • Erica Wang, General Counsel, 3M China and Hong Kong.

      By Erica Wang, General Counsel, 3M China and Hong Kong

      3M’s general counsel, Ivan Fong, likes to quote Marian Wright Edelman, president and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, to describe our legal team’s approach to pro bono work: “Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.”

      Perhaps that’s why pro bono legal work, which has long been a growing focus at our company’s Minnesota’s headquarters, is spreading to our attorneys around the world – even some parts of the world where it’s still a developing concept. In China, we recently organized our first pro bono workshop together with international law firm Hogan Lovells at the 3M Shanghai Innovation Center.

      Social enterprises are booming in China, along with increasing attention and care to the underprivileged population and China’s societal sustainability, but they often lack legal and other professional support. At our workshop, 3M and Hogan Lovells attorneys advised five charitable organizations on their business operations. The five organizations that participated in the workshop are:


      1. Shanghai Ju Shan Zhu Can Public Welfare Development Center. Its Chinese name, Ju Shan Zhu Can, means collection of kindness to support the disabled. It created China’s first online charity store five years ago, which takes in unused clothing and household items or business inventory, and then sells them online. The organization provides employment opportunities to people with disabilities and also uses the revenue to run charitable programs.
      2. Netspring Social Enterprise. It collects used computers from companies to distribute to rural schools, which not only supports the education of children living in poverty, but also reduces e-waste by continuing the usefulness of the computers.
      3. Shanghai Laogang Town Beilan Environmental Protection Service Center. The name “Beilan” in Chinese refers to ensuring a blue sky for younger generations. It focuses on environmental protection by way of recycling used clothes.
      4. GeiLi Giving. The name “Geili” in Chinese means giving power. It collects donations, sells goods for charity and conducts other charitable activities via a public service web platform.
      5. Shanghai Yi Tu Wu Zhang Ai Art Studio. The name “Yi Tu Wu Zhang Hai” means no barrier to becoming artists. This studio was set up in 2010 to help children with autism experience the arts and develop their skills.

      Each enterprise was paired with a small group of attorneys. We learned about their initiatives, missions and challenges and, based on that, we provided specific solutions from legal and risk control perspectives. Each enterprise received more than an hour of dedicated consulting in a private meeting room.

      As part of the workshop, we gave the participants and visiting attorneys a tour of the 3M Innovation Center in Shanghai to introduce them to 3M’s 46 core technology platforms and the various great products derived from them. 3M was not a strange name to them, but they were pleasantly surprised to find out from the tour that 3M actually produces thousands of amazing products, far beyond what they had known. Some guests were particularly attracted by our air quality and water purification products, considering their environmental protection endeavors.

      The participants were very pleased about the interaction with legal professionals, and we were grateful to have the opportunity to contribute to their important work. We aim to contribute more and are about to organize our second pro bono activity in the second half of this year. All of us felt what is to be gained by giving.