$85 million. That’s a huge sum of money—and it’s the amount that law students last year contributed to their communities in the form of pro bono work. This effort to ensure access to justice for everyone was measured by the Association of American Law Schools, which also reported that one-third of law schools in our nation provided more than 3.48 million hours in legal services.
Imagine how many more hours of legal help were provided to communities from the unreported or underreported law schools—could it be 10 million hours? More? And what does that mean for us as a group of future lawyers?
The answer: A lot. Helping those who need access to justice on the same level as those fortunate to have the ability to pay for legal services is a unique benefit this profession provides to our communities.
Good for all
The ABA has a model rule about voluntary pro bono service, which encourages practicing attorneys to provide a minimum of 50 hours per year of legal services without fees or expectations.
Many ABA-accredited law schools choose to follow a similar policy, requiring students to complete a minimum amount of pro bono hours before graduation.
Pro bono work is for the good of the people in our communities—but it’s also good for those who invest in it. I haven’t met a single attorney whose face doesn’t light up when asked about their pro bono projects.
It’s a way to use your specific skills and passions in a way that benefits another person.
What else could you ask for?
Well, for one thing, it can benefit you in tangible ways. Many law students who participate in pro bono initiatives find themselves with job offers, often in the area of law in which they’ve dreamed of working.
Attorneys have reported that the publicity and marketing opportunities from supporting a nonprofit or a disadvantaged class of people has accomplished more goodwill for their firm than they could hope for from paid advertising.
I’m so busy!
Is that what you’re thinking right now?
There’s an old adage that goes, “If you want something done, give it to a busy person.” Isn’t it true that, if something is important, you can find a few extra moments for it? If all of us committed to a few more hours over the course of the next school year, we could assist more of those in our communities who need it most.
You can help a parent in a rough custody battle. A child experiencing domestic abuse. A grandmother who lost her husband due to a bad accident. A nonprofit that’s working to clean up the environment. You could change their world.
And who knows? It just might change your world, too.