CBA Record October 2017
Chicago Bar Foundation Report
No Matter Your Practice Area, Doing Pro Bono is Your Ticket to a Successful and Fulfilling Legal Career
with the idea of making a positive differ- ence in the world, and pro bono offers you a concrete way to do that. And while it may seem counter-intui- tive, doing pro bono when you are feeling burned out can be a great antidote for that feeling. As the legendary management consultant Peter Drucker put it, “Precisely because you are overworked, you need the extra—and different—stimulus to put different parts of yourself to work, both physically and mentally.” Pro bono can recharge your batteries by reminding you of why you became a lawyer and the unique power you have to make a real difference in the lives of others who need legal help. Building Connections If you are working in a firm or large cor- porate department, pro bono can offer an opportunity to work with more senior part- ners or counsel you might not otherwise get to work with, and gives you a chance to show them what kind of lawyer you are. Whatever your practice setting, it is a good opportunity to meet and work with new colleagues, bolster your professional reputation, and expand your network. And when you partner with a good pro bono or legal aid organization, the lawyers on staff often become long-term mentors and sources of referrals. Doing pro bono work also often leads to other leadership opportunities on boards, advisory boards, and other initiatives.
a litigator representing a client in a con- tested court proceeding, or a transactional lawyer providing support for a nonprofit organization such as updating corporate articles and bylaws, negotiating a real estate lease, assisting with IP issues, or updating employment policies). When you partner with a good pro bono and legal aid orga- nization, you can also benefit from the training, mentoring, and support of their experienced lawyers to sharpen your skills while expanding the organization’s ability to help people in need and advance its mission. Beyond that, anyone with a practice that involves having to make their cases to juries and other “regular people” can learn a lot about humility and connecting to people by representing vulnerable people in the legal system. Similarly, transactional law- yers can gain invaluable experience navi- gating complex regulatory thickets such as helping a low-income family navigate often byzantine public benefits systems. Enhancing Professional Satisfaction, Countering Burnout Whatever your practice setting, pro bono offers tremendous opportunities for us to be happier, better, and more produc- tive lawyers (and that goes for law firms and legal departments as well). The most successful lawyers regularly point to pro bono cases as among the most satisfying experiences in their careers, and that is no accident. Most of us went to law school
By Bob Glaves CBF Executive Director I n the toolbox of strategies for making your legal career an accomplished and fulfilling one, one tool that is often overlooked and almost always underrated: pro bono. While pro bono should be an integral part of your practice for many fundamental reasons, an added bonus is that it also helps ensure long term success and satisfaction in your career. So how can doing pro bono work help you advance your career and find fulfill- ment in our fast-changing profession? Building Skills and Experience One fundamental way pro bono can help advance your career is that it offers an opportunity to build your skills and get meaningful experience, particularly in your early years. Depending on where you work, getting meaningful practice experience early on can be difficult. Pro bono can give you the opportunity to get some of that key experi- ence while you are providing an important service to someone in need. And in the process, you build or hone legal skills that make you a better lawyer in all your work. No matter your practice area, there are almost certainly pro bono opportunities right in your proverbial wheelhouse. You can volunteer to help a low-income client in one of your core practice areas (e.g.,
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