Doing Pro Bono Work As A New Attorney
As an attorney, doing pro bono work may be exceedingly rewarding. Helping those in dire need of legal services who otherwise might not have solved their problems or reversed their misfortunes without your assistance, may provide you with the most precious memories of your legal practice many years from now.
In addition to helping those who are less fortunate, pro bono work allows attorneys, especially younger attorneys, an excellent opportunity to develop new skills. These skills include the hard skills – learning the substantive law – and the soft skills, those interpersonal skills that allow you to work effectively within the social framework of your job.
Pro bono work provides young attorneys with practical knowledge they would otherwise have to wait several years to experience. Working with new clients and new attorneys helps young lawyers gain the experience to develop their law practices more quickly.
ABA Model Rule 6.1 states that “[e]very lawyer has a professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay. A lawyer should aspire to render at least (50) hours of pro bono public legal services per year…” Not all firms encourage their attorneys to perform pro bono work equally. Some allow associates to use hours to fulfill yearly billable hour goals and expectations. Others expect you to complete 50 hours on your own time.
Spend a reasonable amount of time considering a cause, organization, or even an area of law with which you have an affinity. What is it that brings out the passion within you? What do you fervently care about? The extent of your fervor will serve you well on those nights that you work late to meet your responsibilities to your firm and your pro bono work.
Do not be reluctant to do work that is different from your practice. Most lawyers fail to do this but doing pro bono work may allow you to branch out and evolve as a general practitioner or find your way as a specialist in another legal area. Do not be afraid to ask colleagues for assistance with your pro bono matter. Fellow attorneys with experience in the same area of law as your pro bono matter can make your life easier.
There are many resources available to help young lawyers. You must have the appropriate time and resources available to provide competent representation in your pro bono matter. You owe pro bono clients the same ethical obligations that you owe professional clients. If you have some upcoming gaps in your hours working for the firm, it might be a good time to accept a new pro bono matter.
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