As lawyers, we have a professional responsibility to provide free legal services to those unable to pay. But for many of us, our pro bono obligations get lost somewhere among the demands of our everyday practice and our family and social commitments.
Jordan Miller, a Wenatchee lawyer and member of the WSBA’s Young Lawyer Committee, was recently presented with the Chelan-Douglas Counties Bar Association’s Volunteer Legal Services Award. Miller has advice for younger attorneys who are striving to fit pro bono work into their busy schedules.
1. Start small.
Miller recommends that younger attorneys start with small, manageable goals. “Start with one case,” he says. “You can always fit one more case into your schedule.” Then, “chip away at it, bit by bit.”
2. Get your firm’s support.
Some lawyers, especially those with large billable hour demands, may need to obtain the support of their boss to maximize their pro bono efforts. “It helps to have a supportive boss, but even if you don’t, it’s an easy sell,” explains Miller. “It’s hard to say ‘no’ to a lawyer who is trying to help people in need.”
3. Contact your local county bar association.
Miller recommends that attorneys talk to their local county bar leadership regarding local pro bono opportunities and needs. “Each community is different,” he says, “but there’s always a need for volunteers.” Not sure where to start? Miller suggests Law Advocates, the Northwest Justice Project, Law Day, and many other worthy organizations that can use your help. Find your local county bar.
4. Satisfaction is guaranteed.
There are many benefits of volunteering. For one, says Miller, “you get the tremendously satisfying feeling of helping people in need.” Besides that, pro bono work helps raise the status of lawyers in general and volunteers in particular. “Volunteering is a great way to get your name out there and develop good will among your colleagues and the community… It’s some of the best advertising,” says Miller.
For more information on pro bono work and to see current opportunities, check out the WSBA’s online pro bono resources.
The Washington Young Lawyers Committee (WYLC) is the vehicle for new attorneys and law students to get involved with the Washington State Bar Association.
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