The need for pro bono services is great. The consequences of the current economic downturn are substantial and tragic, resulting in across the board cuts and a multibillion dollar shortfall for Washington State. Unemployment rates continue to rise, while the rate of home foreclosures continue to increase almost exponentially.
At the same time, legal aid providers struggle under a heavier workload with fewer resources and staff. As access to justice for indigent and low-income members of our community grow more limited, public interest service providers need your support more than ever before. Your pro bono help makes service providers more effective, reduces costs and increases the quality of programs; it has a direct and profound impact on those who have the greatest need.
However, you benefit, too! Research shows that what makes good moral and ethical sense makes good business sense too.
Here are some examples:
- Fulfilling Unmet Needs
The current economic situation is dire – the Governor has called for across the board cuts and the state faces a multibillion shortfall. Unemployment has risen dramatically and continues to rise. The rate of home foreclosures is increasing almost exponentially. Legal aid providers, already accustomed to being underfunded, have fewer resources and more work. The indigent and low-income members of our community suffer the greatest losses when their ability to access justice is limited. Public interest service providers need more support than ever from the private bar.
Your participation in any pro bono effort serves to increase the pro bono service safety net leverages the effectiveness of service providers, opens the door to reducing costs and increasing quality of pro bono programs, and has a direct and profound impact on those who have the greatest need. But the benefits don’t stop there – research shows that what makes good moral and ethical sense makes good business sense too.
- Professional Development for Attorneys
Pro bono cases can provide new associates with invaluable advocacy experience that they otherwise might not have the opportunity to develop during their early years at a firm. A properly supervised pro bono project can give young associates the chance to conduct client interviews, question witnesses during a deposition, or even appear in court. These experiences give new associates a kind of hands-on training that law firms strive to provide.
Assigning pro bono cases to associates and summer associates is an inexpensive and efficient way for the law firm to professionally develop its young associates while concurrently satisfying the associates’ yearning for hands on experience.
- Recruiting and Retaining Attorneys
There is a strong demand among recent law school graduates for a clear and solid commitment to serving the public interest. A pro bono effort approved and organized by your firm or legal department can be powerful enticement for associates who want to work in an environment that embraces pro bono services.
- Firm-Wide Satisfaction
Pro bono attorneys often work closely with individual clients. Such one-on-one work can be deeply satisfying for many attorneys whose practice might otherwise confer a more impersonal experience. Pro bono work also affords associates, as well as partners, the opportunity to work on cases involving diverse legal issues and to develop a wide array of lawyering skills.
Making pro bono service visible throughout your firm or legal department provides individual attorneys with information about the numerous and varied skills of their colleagues. Such information may prove useful in marketing efforts and recognition of individual contributions will enhance attorney satisfaction and retention.
- Strengthened Client Relations
A strong pro bono ethic can be appealing to potential clients who are seeking representation. Pro bono activity can build relationships between firm partners and Board members of local community agencies. Also, many firm clients are public spirited. Taking interest in the client’s philanthropies can build stronger relationships with those clients.
Pro bono can lead to opportunities to earn free CLE credits (see Regulation 106(f)). You may receive recognition from the WSBA, the Washington State Supreme Court, and other groups/associations. If you are retired or have been inactive from legal practice and would like to reengage, you may be able to waive your bar dues by participating in pro bono initiatives.