By: Hailey Teton, Associate, Mountain View
The State Bar of California encourages each attorney to contribute at least 50 hours of pro bono legal services annually. While at first it may seem challenging to fit 50 hours of pro bono work into your already hectic schedule, volunteering even small amounts of time throughout the year adds up to one huge difference to those in your community. Incorporating pro bono work into your legal practice is manageable when you keep the following 5 tips in mind:
5. Find a cause: Sometimes it’s easier to make time for a cause about which you’re already passionate. If you need help connecting with an organization that supports an issue you care about, the California State Bar and local bar associations – such as the Bar Association of San Francisco and the Santa Clara County Bar Association – typically have pro bono resource pages connecting lawyers to volunteer opportunities and legal service providers in a wide variety of arenas.
4. Do what works: Pro bono opportunities vary in length and scope; some opportunities only require an hour a week, or one weekend a month. Examples of opportunities requiring only a minimal time commitment are:
- drop-in legal service clinics;
- issue-specific workshops, such as tax preparation or immigration assistance; and
- programs that connect clients to attorneys via webcam, offering much-needed legal services over a virtual platform.
Every hour helps a person in need!
3. Join a list: If there is a legal services organization or program with which you enjoy volunteering or of which would like to become a part, sign up for its e-mail listserv to stay up-to-date on pro bono opportunities and developments. Instead of spending your time searching for pro bono work, opportunities can arrive directly to your inbox!
2. Make a case: Keep in mind the business case for pro bono: working on pro bono matters enhances your skills as a lawyer, helps you build relationships both within and outside of the legal community and showcases corporate social responsibility for your law firm or company.
1. Take a step back: Remind yourself of the value of your legal skills and the great need for legal services both locally and nationally. Lending a hand as an advocate will assuredly not only make you feel good about the work you do, but also inspire those around you to do the same. This feeling can make it easier to turn pro bono work into a priority.
Hailey Teton, a UC Hastings College of the Law alum, is an associate in the Litigation practice group at Fenwick & West LLP. She focuses her practice on a broad variety of litigation matters to support clients in the high technology and life sciences industries. Originally from Santa Barbara, California, Hailey has been involved with social justice organizations for over 10 years. She was the Senior Managing Editor of the Hastings Race and Poverty Law Journal, and is interested in improving access to education for low-income and minority students. She currently volunteers through the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Pro Bono Program, representing a pro se litigant in connection with his appeal. She enjoys living and working in the Bay Area legal community, as its members are truly dedicated to improving the community around them through pro bono legal services and support.