Associate General Counsel for Public Policy and Pro Bono, Koch Industries
Pro Bono Initiative Leader
Convincing corporate lawyers they have the skills to work criminal pro bono cases often takes some time and creativity, but once they see the real impact they can make, they’re hooked, says Melissa Brown, who helps run Koch’s pro bono initiative. “I can’t think of an attorney that has worked on one of our pro bono projects who hasn’t come back asking for more.”
Melissa, Koch’s Associate General Counsel for Public Policy and Pro Bono, says that formalizing a program harnessing the experience of Koch’s staff and partner lawyers to dedicate valuable pro bono work is an example of the company “walking the walk” by supporting local projects. “We place a lot of emphasis on what Charles Koch describes as ‘Principled Entrepreneurship,’ and I believe that includes creating virtuous cycles of mutual benefit in your community — being a good partner in your community. It’s a win-win for everybody.”
A Washington, D.C.-based civil litigation expert who previously worked in Uganda for UNICEF and USAID, Melissa has carried her passion for social justice into her work at Koch, where she now spends much of her time driving the pro bono initiative. “These days, the problems seem so insurmountable,” she says, “but if everybody that we work with changes one life, and then that person changes one life, that’s how you start. You have to start. You have to try.”
She explains that Koch's pro bono hours will largely be split among nonprofits around the country working on diverse issues, including criminal justice, poverty eradication and housing.
Of particular urgency is the District of Columbia’s compassionate release project. Lawyers from Koch and from its preferred partner firms will soon start working to help secure early release for nonviolent inmates at high risk of contracting COVID-19 in jail. “It’s great if I can change a law that impacts the fairness of the civil litigation system,” says Melissa, “but it’s even better if I can help save somebody’s life.”