Pro Bono

What is pro bono work?

The ABA has defined pro bono as legal services provided without fee or expectation of fee to persons of limited means or non-profit, governmental, civic, community, or religious organizations in matters designed primarily to address the needs of persons with limited means. The ABA encourages attorneys to render at least 50 hours of pro bono legal services per year (WSBA encourages 30 hours per year), and contribute financially to organizations that provide legal services to indigent persons.

I will be working at a private law firm this summer / after law school. How can I continue to engage in public interest work in our community?

Congratulations! Understanding the many ways that public interest work can benefit you and your professional life significantly increases the likelihood that you will have a long and fulfilling legal career. Many attorneys have said that the pro bono work they do is the most rewarding aspect of their professional lives. Some firms have structured pro bono involvement plans, so that is a great first place to look for pro bono opportunities. Other firms prefer that their attorneys work on issues they are passionate about as individuals. If that is the case, Advocate Resource Center is a great pro bono opportunity clearinghouse for Washington State. By selecting the geographic location and substantive area of law that you would like to work in, you can get a listing of organizations that have current pro bono opportunities. If you are looking for pro bono opportunities outside of Washington State, probono.net has the same search format as Advocate Resource Center. Additionally, contacting the local bar association can yield information about formal pro bono programs in the area. For a take on what you will gain from pro bono service, read Bill Gates Sr.’s reflections on pro bono service by the private bar.

How can I evaluate a private law firm’s commitment to pro bono work?

Assessing a firm’s commitment to pro bono work is critical to understanding the firm culture and the value it places on social justice. While law firm websites often note pro bono activities of attorneys, it is sometimes difficult to assess the overall firm commitment and your ability to do pro bono work as a young associate. It is helpful to look at the firm’s NALP form to glean information about hours dedicated to pro bono by both associates and partners. The more people that you talk to that are familiar with the firm’s pro bono program, the richer your understanding will be about the work your firm engages in. For more information about assessing a firm’s commitment to pro bono, please see our pro bono page.

Sullivan Hall Classroom