Robin Wolpert is plenty busy as senior counsel for compliance and business conduct at 3M, yet she still devotes between 200 and 400 hours a year to pro bono cases. It’s extraordinarily rewarding work for her, knowing that she helped make a difference in the life of someone who often has little faith in the justice system.
“I represent people against whom the odds are high, and I like giving them the best I can to beat the odds,” she says. “You can really change someone’s life who didn’t expect that you could help them. And that’s the best thing. They have renewed faith in our courts and they are grateful that someone cared enough to work on their behalf.”
Throughout her career — first at Dorsey & Whitney and then at Greene Espel in Minneapolis, where she was a litigator and appellate specialist — Wolpert has taken on all manner of pro bono appeals. From employment and civil rights matters to criminal cases, Wolpert digs in to find creative arguments that chalk up a win for clients. Her pro bono work has even taken her to the Minnesota Supreme Court, where she argued cases of first impression.
In addition, Wolpert recently served as chair of the Appellate Practice Council of the state bar association and treasurer of the Minnesota Supreme Court Historical Society, among other volunteer work. She particularly enjoys helping the appellate system create pro bono programs and strengthening ties between the bar and bench.
About a year ago Wolpert joined 3M, where she helps the company comply with anti-bribery and anti-corruption laws and standards around the world. Though she thoroughly enjoyed litigation, she also was ready to take the lessons learned from court and work proactively on solving future problems.
“You don’t get to do that as outside counsel,” she notes. “At 3M, I get to build a gold standard for anti-bribery and anti-corruption practices based on lessons we’ve learned from doing business every day. You get to build on something rather than coming in to fight.”
Wolpert now saves her fighting for her pro bono work. She’s grateful to her employers current and past who have given her latitude to do pro bono work. But they’ve also benefited from the trial experience and skills she’s gained in the past decade while fighting for others on her own time.