Pro Bono: Do Law Firms Really Have To?

Team members placing hands on top of each other to show they are all in

Pro Bono means “for the good of the public.” Pro bono is short for pro bono publico. A lot of attorneys outside the US might not be familiar with this. It means providing legal services to low-income individuals and people who cannot afford to pay for these services. Lawyers offer their professional skills for the greater good by volunteering or doing projects and tasks for these individuals. It is not considered pro bono work if you are not performing work that is traditionally billed to clients. Working for not-for-profit organizations or educational institutions that require corporate legal services can be a good fit for b2b law firms.

Why do Attorneys do Pro Bono Work?

Most people don’t have a lot of extra time to dedicate to volunteerism and to work without being paid for it. That’s the reason the American Bar Association and many local and state bars have it as a part of their ethics code. 

Lawyers are uniquely positioned to offer legal services that non-lawyers cannot. Society needs legal services, and the rationale may be traced back to bar associations, ethical regulations, and the philosophies that led to becoming a lawyer in the first place. The American Bar Association has an ethical norm for lawyers that recommends them to provide 50 hours of pro bono services every year. 

What are the Benefits of a Structured Pro Bono Program?

Law firms benefit from organizing these programs in a variety of ways, including rankings or prizes, filling out submission forms, and receiving recognition for their work.

Smaller firms may lack the means to provide programs at the same level and scope as international firms, yet their contribution is still meaningful and significant. Even if you don’t receive monetary compensation from the clients you represent, evaluate the worth of your work in a different way.

You will see results if you create a structured program and stick to it.

1) Professional Development

Pro Bono is a fantastic approach to have professional development related to pro bono work while also allowing younger attorneys to gain experience with cases and clients that they would not otherwise have access to.

If they were paying clients, they would expect so much more from the start, so if you have a practice and attorneys ready to go but don’t have the years of experience that a paying client would expect, you have a brilliant opportunity. It’s the best way to provide experience and knowledge to new attorneys by volunteering for these clients in need.

The most effective way to do it is by lending out an attorney to go work inside of an organization for a little while without expecting any monetary compensation. For instance, there’s a large not-for-profit organization and they need an IP attorney. They have a legal department but don’t have any IP attorneys. They might not have the necessary resources.

As a law firm, you can recognize these opportunities and arrange for separate lawyers to work in their offices for the weekend.

By learning what their needs are and understanding their programs you are gaining valuable experience that the firm doesn’t have to pay for. Pro bono may be worth your investment as it translates to investing in your people.

2) Publicity and Marketing Benefits 

Offering these pro bono programs has a marketing value since it allows you to expand the messaging linked to the services you’re providing and around professional development to the public in a way that you cannot always do with paying clients.

You will continue to be held to the same confidentiality and ethical standards as a paying client. Clients who are unable to pay for your services, on the other hand, are typically thankful and more flexible when it comes to you receiving publicity from them in the form of an interview or a testimonial. It can provide recognition and appreciation from the client, turning it into a marketing moment.

These things not only make you happy but also provide a way in which your current clients can appreciate you and the way your services benefit them. They are more likely to use paid services if they know you are doing something for the larger good of people and corporations and are willing to invest in them.

When corporations seek legal counsel, you will be at the top of their list. Corporations like to work with law firms that are socially aware and conscious. They examine your firm’s policies on diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as its environmental and societal initiatives and overall social programming.

Whatever you do, make sure to publicize it by including a social tab on your website or by posting about it on social media.

Need a Structure for your Law Firm’s Pro Bono Program? 

Pro bono is an investment in your employees’ professional development, but it’s also an investment in the community, and what you receive back is an entirely different level of value because it drives people to contribute and interact.

Even if you are a small lawyer, a small law firm, or a solo practitioner without the resources or structure to provide your pro bono program, you can still participate through your bar associations. On their website, they share models and best practices. If you’re not sure where to begin with pro bono initiatives, you may contact us, and we’d be happy to help you develop something tailored to your law firm

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