Where There’s a Way, There's a Will

Jul 31, 2017 12:15 PM ET

It takes a special person to run toward danger when others are running away. And it takes a different set of skills entirely to help those heroes get their affairs in order.

“I can’t protect a firefighter who runs into a burning building or a police officer who is knocking on a door not knowing what’s on the other side,” Daniel McKenna says. “But, as a lawyer, I can help protect their families.”

Daniel is President of the Wills for Heroes Foundation. The nonprofit organization — founded by a friend of his — brings lawyers together with first responders, military veterans, and their families to create essential legal documents (wills, living wills, powers of attorney) for free. With events held across the country, there are now Wills for Heroes programs in 28 states.

We’ve always looked for ways that our employees can use their unique skills to help communities. David L. Cohen, Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer of Comcast Corporation, has had a career-long commitment to pro bono legal services, and has encouraged general counsel companywide (at Comcast Corporate, Comcast Cable, NBCUniversal, and Comcast Spectacor) to structure a program to facilitate company lawyers participating in pro bono legal activities. To that end, at the beginning of 2016, Art Block, Executive Vice President, General Counsel, and Secretary of Comcast, formalized a pro bono program across Comcast to support and encourage our attorneys to provide pro bono legal services using company resources.

One example of our pro bono commitment is our partnership with Wills for Heroes, where our lawyers and legal staff last year volunteered to help create estate plans for 56 Philadelphia-area first responders, veterans, and their families. The experience was as meaningful to the Comcast attorneys as it was helpful to the clients.

“The first responders we served through Wills for Heroes protect our families and communities every day. It was humbling to have the opportunity to thank them for their service by providing legal assistance that will protect their families,” says Louise Cummings, Counsel at Comcast Cable.

“It was an easy fit for us,” adds Daniel, who is also a partner at Ballard Spahr, the Philadelphia-based law firm that David Cohen chaired before coming to Comcast and that now includes Comcast as a client. “We’ve had a long-standing relationship with Comcast and the legal team on a professional and personal level. We’ve always worked well together, so carrying that over into the pro bono space just made sense.”

The long-standing partnership between Comcast and Ballard Spahr had already led to collaborations that included everything from pro bono legal clinics for the homeless to a joint effort to beautify and serve meals at a shelter on Comcast Cares Day. So Daniel knew what kind of results to expect by bringing our legal staff to serve the clients of Wills for Heroes.

“The events we’ve had with the Comcast volunteers have been flawless,” Daniel says. “Both because of the internal administrative assistance and just the attitude and approach of the volunteers. It’s rare that we put on an event where the volunteer energy is so high.”

It’s not uncommon to see emotional displays of gratitude and relief at Wills for Heroes events. But, Daniel says, the impact is as apparent on the volunteers as it is on the heroes they’re serving.

“There’s something incredibly gratifying about using your skills to help someone who is sitting right in front of you,” Daniel says. “You see that person smiling. You can shake their hand and hear ‘thank you.’ And a lot of lawyers don’t get an opportunity to do that. We get a lot of volunteers who come back because of how good they feel about using their skills to help.” Count Comcast’s pro bono volunteers among those who keep coming back.