For Morris Hirsch
legal department's pro bono program is not just a way to support his
company's social responsibility goals or to provide opportunities for the department's 30 attorneys.
It's an integral part of his
personal commitment to community service.
In his professional life, Hirsch is senior executive vice president and general counsel for San Francisco-based UnionBanCal Corp. and its principal subsidiary, Union Bank.
Outside of work, he is a member of his synagogue's Social Action Committee and regularly volunteers at a food bank and a homeless shelter.
"These aren't things related to my law career; they are things that matter to me as a person," Hirsch
So when Union Bank's Chief Litigation Counsel Joseph Catalano put together a partnership with the Housing Negotiation Project of the San Francisco Bar Association's Volunteer Legal Services Program (VLSP), it was only natural that Hirsch not only endorsed the idea but stepped up to volunteer.
"I thought it was important from a bank perspective and from a legal division perspective, but also from a personal perspective," Hirsch
attorneys are offered the equivalent of four paid days a year for pro bono service, and the Housing Negotiation Project is one of several programs for which they volunteer.
The program offers representation to every low-income tenant facing eviction in San Francisco at the crucial mandatory settlement conference immediately before trial.
conducts a half-day training program for the volunteers.
first volunteered in August 2010, when he
handled a difficult negotiation involving parents who were trying to evict their son, daughter-in-law and young grandchild.
"It was a domestic dispute masquerading as an eviction," Hirsch
"Through very protracted negotiations, we did ultimately come to settlement, but it was a really emotionally charged process to get there."
Undeterred by this first experience, Hirsch
volunteered again in November.
is one of seven Union Bank
Housing Negotiation Project volunteers who work alongside law firm attorneys in the Superior Court on the last Wednesday afternoon of every month.