There are many reasons for doing pro bono work as a component of your practice. Besides the fact that it is strongly encouraged by the rules of professional conduct and is good for the community, doing pro bono work can pay big dividends for your career
Altruism is good, but pro bono practice can benefit newer, unemployed and underemployed lawyers in important ways. Here are some (self-interested) reasons:
It is good professional and skills development. If you are unemployed or underemployed, pro bono cases may be your best bet to develop and continue to refine your legal skills. You can chose cases from a broad range of practice areas and time commitments. Whatever you do, whether it is a custody hearing or reviewing financial documents in a potential foreclosure matter, you are using some aspect of your legal training for productive use. In other words, practicing law.
It is an opportunity to make professional connections. Taking pro bono matters means you will need to interact potentially with opposing counsel, judges, court staff, other lawyers taking pro bono cases, volunteer lawyer program staff, other lawyers at training CLEs, etc. The benefits of these connections may not be obvious at the time, but they may pay dividends down the road in a number of different forms (referrals, references, good will).
You can earn CLE credit in a number of jurisdictions. In Minnesota, the Supreme Court recently approved one hour of CLE credit for every six hours of pro bono up to a total of six credit hours. Other jurisdictions have similar provisions. In addition, many volunteer lawyer programs offer free or low-cost training programs for CLE credit. And what practicing lawyer couldn’t use CLE credits?
Now is the time to put pro bono into your practice mix. The internet is filled with resources to get you started.