To kick off WSBA’s Celebrate Pro Bono program, we’re talking to members about how they give back and serve the profession. Under RPC 6.1, every lawyer has a professional responsibility to assist in the provision of legal services to those unable to pay, and the Oath of Attorney says, “I will never reject, from any consideration personal to myself, the cause of the defenseless or oppressed, or delay unjustly the cause of any person.”
Omar Nur is a WSBA member and a volunteer. Here, he shares how he is fulfilling his oath and professional responsibility.
What are the various ways you have volunteered and what has that experience been like?
I started volunteering while I was in law school. I think my first activity was helping out One America for their Citizenship Day. I continue to volunteer with One America and other law clinics, including the neighborhood legal clinic at Casa de la Raza, the KCBA’s Pro Bono Services and their YLD Walk-In Clinic, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP), and the First Responder Wills Clinic.
I also serve on the boards for the Middle Eastern Legal Association of Washington and the Snohomish County Bar Association Young Lawyers Division. I enjoy these opportunities because they allow me to help others, give back, and be engaged in my community.
As an attorney, what are the skills you have gained through engaging in public service?
Relationship building is one of the big ones. Learning to communicate effectively and properly with your clients, as well as with your peers, is another important skill. You have to convey ideas, your intentions, and goals, and then put a plan in place to get that done. I also develop my networking skills. I get all of my clients from referral, so public service allows me to connect with new individuals who could potentially refer clients to my firm.
What has surprised you about volunteering?
One, the amount of work that can be involved in volunteering, and two, how rewarding it can be; the latter often makes up for the former. I remember one of the pro bono cases I worked on was a cancellation of a removal case. It was a lot of work and stress, and I was convinced we were going to lose, yet we won. My client thanked me many times. I never got paid for my work on this case, and I even paid out of pocket to drive to the detention center; it was a lot of time, energy, and heartache, especially the day of the hearing. But I was able to give this person a second chance at life in this country, and that was a rewarding and powerful experience.
What support did you receive during your pro bono case?
With NWIRP, they gave me the tools I needed to effectively represent my client in this case. It was more a lack of confidence and reassurance in myself, because this was one of my first bigger immigration cases and it had real-life consequences: If the judge ruled against us, my client would be deported. I reached out to other attorneys who were very willing to help me. It was a rocky hearing, but in the end we prevailed — I think in large part due to the support and resources I received.
What would you say to a peer who is interested in volunteering?
Pro bono is like a regular case, so make sure you have the motivation, the commitment, and follow-through. Take that step and commit part of your practice to get involved. There is a lot of need out there, and there are not a lot of resources to help these individuals. I think it is our duty as attorneys to use the knowledge and skills we have in the law to help those who otherwise can’t afford to help themselves.
This month, look for opportunities to serve the public and the profession, learn about the rules and resources that support you to do pro bono, and hear from your peers the many rewards of volunteering.