ro bono and community service work should be included on your law firm blog or Web site. Seeing such work will not be the determining factor in whether people hire you but it is a factor in their decision and has other advanatges.
Here’s are the reasons to include a section on pro bono & community service:
- Lawyers have an awful reputation, people expect the least of lawyers when it comes to helping the disadvantaged at no cost. Site viewers will be pleased to see lawyers doing pro bono and community service work.
- It’s welcome recognition for the staff and lawyers in your firm doing the work.
- Rallying point for all the firm’s staff and lawyers. Sometimes working in a law office and practicing law is hell. It’s nice to see the good things you do for people. Here’s you chance to share it with all the employees.
- Recruiting. Lawyers and staff considering whether to work at your firm care about the work atmosphere and the quality of people in your office. New associates often want the opportunity to do pro bono work where they work.
- Reporters care about interesting legal principals and the results you achieve. It’s a nice story, for example, to report that you were able to stop a wrongful eviction on behalf of senior citizens.
- Demonstrates your expertise in an area of law.
What do you include in your pro bono and community service section?
- Why you do pro bono & community service.
- History of lawyers and firm doing such work.
- Describe why you are proud to do it.
- The policy in your firm for this work. Some firms give credit for pro bono & community service against billable hours targets.
- List projects taken on. List them by year so that you demonstrate you maintain your efforts in this area. The worst thing you can do is throw up a list of pro bono work you did a couple years ago and not update it. It will look like your pro bono work is an after thought.
- List boards lawyers serve on for programs that benefit poor and disadvantaged people.
- List boards lawyers serve on to improve the delivery of legal services or people’s access to justice.
For each project cover the following points:
- Description of the project
- The hardships faced by the people you helped
- Why you got involved
- The issues involved in the case
- The challenges you faced
- The outcome
- How you felt about the outcome
- The lawyers and staff involved
- Testimonials or comments by the people or group helped
- Quotes from the lawyers and staff involved
- Links to the Web sites of the group helped
By providing detail you do not need to take on many pro bono cases to demonstrate your commitment to community service to your site audience.
In the case of lawyer participation on nonprofit and community boards, many of the same points should be covered. In addition describe the beneficiaries of the services the nonprofit offers, the staff involved at the nonprofit, their history and the like. Depending on the Internet publicity efforts of the nonprofit, the presence you give the nonprofit on your Web site, may be better than their own Internet presence.
Examples of ways law firms describe their pro bono work include:
Other work you do for free
During my practice, I always felt that I did not need to or have anytime to do any pro bono work because I gave more time away than you could shake a stick at. There were so many phone calls and meetings in which I provided helpful information or cases I put a ton of time in but never got paidon, both on hourly and contingency fee matters. I suspect other lawyers in small and medium size firms feel the same way.
Done tastefully, it may be possible to hint to how you give of your self to help others. Be careful so it’s not perceived as marketing that any business would do. Describe what you believe your obligation is as a lawyer – that that having a license to practice law is a privilege and that with that privilege comes the obligation to educate people about the law and to help others. This is especially true when most of the people you will come in contact with would not qualify as ‘pro bono’ clients by being close to the poverty line. Most people who cannot afford a lawyers time are moderate-income people.
Other benefits of pro bono and community service
Do keep in mind though that pro bono work does have its rewards. The number of poor people needing legal services is overwhelming. If you get the chance to do some work under the private attorney involvement program of your state’s legal services program or your bar association, you should consider it. Helping others when you are not expecting anything in return can make one feel wonderful. With lawyers struggling with why they practice law to start with, a shot in the arm from pro bono and community service efforts can work wonders.