Make Time for Pro Bono Work

This week is national pro bono week and many state bar organizations are holding CLEs and other events in honor of the event. If you can participate in your local bar’s activities this week, make time to do so.

If you do not have time to participate in this week’s activities, here are three reasons why you need to do pro bono work.

Remember why you went to law school

A large portion of law students go to law school because they want to help people in need. A smaller portion of that group end up helping those in need on a daily basis. For a variety of reasons, many graduates end up working at larger firms, representing corporations or businesses, and have little interaction with “the little guys.”

You can still have your cake and eat it too. Frankly, most large firms expect that all attorneys commit to a certain amount of pro bono work. Even if you only represent corporate entities and not individuals, you can still help the little guy on the side.

More people need free legal assistance

The economy is still in the tank, people are losing their jobs, and people are losing their homes. You might not be able to solve all those problems, but you can still provide quality legal advice to people who need it.

You might not think that talking to someone for twenty minutes is very helpful—but it can make a world of difference to that person.

You will feel fulfilled

There is nothing more satisfying than helping someone who truly needs the help and has nowhere else to turn. Obviously, the point of doing pro bono work is not to make yourself feel better, but it is certainly a very nice side effect.


1 Comment

  1. This is a great reminder. It’s something I say when I’m handed the mic at those uncomfortable “recognition” events – the ones w/ the sheet-cake & Hawaiian punch or cheap wine & crackers – when I thank the folks who are really responsible for me getting another little trophy: the guys & gals who aren’t here tonight, because they are still in their office getting their billables in…
    The PB work, if distributed a little more evenly, would be a quick blip, no burden.

    Note however, not all “free” work you are being asked to do is “pro bono”; some of is is just a person or company who has not budgeted for legal services and wants it for free. I found this brief vid helpful:
    Boundaries, folks; boundaries…
    And RUN from colleagues who offer “referrals” who wind up sending you stuff they’d rather not handle because thy can’t bill for it. (the stories won’t be told here – you probably already have your own)

    Pro Bono (at least as I understand it) is part of a little bit longer latin phrase “Pro Bono Publico” which I have been told means “for the benefit of the public“.
    Clearest examples I can think of are the folks who volunteer at the eviction and foreclosure calendars, keeping an eye on over-reaching conduct by other party. The public benefits because the landlord/lender reps have keep in mind that somebody’s watching. Less clear: folks asking for free atty svcs on Craigslist.

    My 200+ hrs of annual public benefit free service go to in-court mediator work on Wednesdays helping pro-se litigants stay in control of the outcome of their case, monthly appearance at ex parte looking after delinquent probate and guardianship cases (frequently pro se, also) and mission-work at the local HIV/AIDS hospice, helping the guys get their wills, medical POAs and related life-planning docs written, so care-providers and family members know what they’d like when they can’t speak for themselves. The author is right; this activity is invigorating and the right thing to do. Find the time for something you think will benefit your community, not just the individual who is getting something for nothing. My .02. Your mileage may vary.
    All Respect – David K. Hiscock
    Ballard Law Office 206-789-9551

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