By Jacob Maslow • October 05, 2018•Careers, Nonprofits and the Public Interest
Each year, attorneys donate dozens of hours in pro bono work. It’s sort of become an unspoken rule of the legal field. Although not required, professional organizations like the American Bar Association strongly suggest that attorneys donate their time to those in need of legal assistance.
After all, the term “pro bono” is a shortened version of “pro bono publico,” which in Latin means “for the good of the public.”
When attorneys do pro bono work, they’re helping the community – the public – by taking on clients who are otherwise unable to afford an attorney.
Still, there are some in this profession that feel pro bono work is a waste of time; time that could be spent on paying clients.
Pro bono work has its benefits, and in many ways, can actually help boost a firm’s bottom line.
Help Build a Reputation in the Community
Attorneys that engage in pro bono work develop a positive reputation in the local community. After all, they are helping people in need. Lawyers already get a bad reputation in the public’s eye. Pro bono work helps change minds about law firms and attorneys, and it serves as a selling point for potential clients.
Pro Bono Work Does Not Hurt Your Bottom Line
Many top law firms donate hours to pro bono work without losing prestige or hurting their bottom line. Local firms, too, donate their time. You do not have to trade one for the other. Attorney Denise Bradshaw was given the Most Pro Bono Hours Award and was also named a Rising Star by Super Lawyers. She’s not the only attorney to have achieved such feats. It is possible to do foster goodwill in the community without sacrificing your livelihood.
Improve Your Skills
On an individual level, pro bono work will help enhance your skills as an attorney. The experience will allow you to either sharpen your existing skills or learn a new one. These skills stretch beyond your practice area experience. In many cases, pro bono work allows you to work with clientele of different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, which will help you sharpen your communication skills.
New attorneys can benefit from gaining valuable overall experience that boosts their confidence in the field.
An Opportunity for Collaboration
Pro bono cases also give attorneys the opportunity to work with other lawyers in the firm that they may not have otherwise known. These new relationships can create cross-firm opportunities in the future.
Attorneys also have the chance to network with other attorneys working for legal aid foundations. These connections aid in business development, which benefits the firm.
The most obvious benefit of pro bono work is a sense of personal fulfillment. Many attorneys find that donating their time reinvigorates their passion for law. Helping others is a rewarding experience, particularly in matters of the law. Pro bono work reminds many attorneys of the reason they got into law to begin with: to help others.
Clients also feel empowered and hopeful in situations that may otherwise have felt hopeless.