Take It from a WSBA Volunteer: A Q&A With Nicholas Larson

Lawyer with takeaway coffee and flu mask on city street

All this week, the WSBA is joining others around the country during National Volunteer Week to recognize and celebrate the many invaluable volunteers who devote their time and expertise to carry out the WSBA mission of serving the public, ensuring the integrity of the legal profession, and championing justice.

National Volunteer Week is an opportunity to honor the impact of all those who do good in our communities, and inspire others to make a difference and improve the world. So every day this week, NWSidebar will publish new interviews with a few of our outstanding volunteers

For questions about volunteering with WSBA, please contact Volunteer Engagement Advisor, Paris Eriksen at parise@wsba.org.

What has been your proudest moment or favorite memory so far as a WSBA volunteer?

My proudest moment as a member and co-chair of the WSBA Pro Bono and Public Service Committee (PBPSC) was when the WSBA Board of Governors and the Washington Supreme Court approved and fast-tracked our proposal to change the WSBA emeritus pro bono membership status for attorneys in our state. The changes made to Admission to Practice Rule 3 make it more possible for more members to do more pro bono work throughout our state. The changes that were implemented this year were the result of many years of work by our committee and many individuals who came together to make a difference as volunteers. (More information about these changes and the new opportunities for emeritus pro bono membership status are available on the WSBA’s website.)

Did you have any misconceptions about volunteering before you began this role and have they changed?

Pro bono has been a part of my entire legal career, so my expectations about volunteering before I began this role were guided by my prior experiences in this area. However, my perspective is always widening based on continuing to experience different viewpoints and opportunities. I am always impressed with and continually grateful to all the hardworking volunteers on our committee who dedicate their time and effort to impact so many across our state. For example, I was not aware of the prior work our committee did to develop probonowa.org, the online clearinghouse for pro bono opportunities. The prior work laid the foundation for our current committee efforts, led by our dedicated volunteer workgroup members, to build out the website in a truly meaningful manner. The changes made and planned for this clearinghouse will increase access and opportunities for WSBA members across the state to get more involved.

What have you learned that you might not have if you had not volunteered? Has it changed your approach to practicing law?

Volunteering on the PBPSC impacts my practice of law every day. The perspective gained from serving on this committee, and interacting with a diverse set of attorneys in different practice areas from across the state, helps me to better understand and consider all kinds of legal issues, including those in the cases I handle daily for governmental agencies, private entities and individuals, and nonprofit clients. For example, our committee recently reviewed proposed changes to RPC 1.8(e) that have been adopted in a similar manner in other states for “humanitarian” reasons. The complex nature of the changes in regard to the potential impact, as well as the potential implementation considerations, reminded me that often those changes that require the most work provide the most reward. This is often what I find in my private practice, and it was helpful to be reminded in such a meaningful way.

What have you found most inspiring among your fellow WSBA volunteers?

The dedication and determination of the volunteers I work with on the PBPSC is truly inspiring. The committee members who mentored me, as well as the new members that just joined our group, are passionate about the purpose of our mission as well as the time we spend striving to achieve it. We are also very fortunate to have wonderful WSBA support staff guiding us through each step. For example, we are in the process of updating PBPSC’s mission statement and fully developing our strategic plan. These efforts are time consuming, require discussion and consideration of different perspectives, and do not lend themselves to a 30-minute open-and-shut process. Nevertheless, the committee as a whole, and in particular the volunteers on the workgroup involved in these initiatives, are committed to making these changes a reality. We are not there yet, but we are working on it every chance we can and will be there soon!