This week has been designated as the National Pro Bono Celebration. We ran a story on the Florence Project yesterday, and we’ll post more stories about the lawyers who have stepped up to take Florence cases.
Today, though, we’ll look back at the June 2002 issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine. First, you can read how I described pro bono in my editor’s column. (As I write my column for the December 2010 issue, I may crib heavily from my own words!). And then you can read a great story—Practical Pro Bono—that we published in that issue, written by Leslie Ross, a former magazine colleague who is now an Arizona lawyer.
Here is my column:
Pro Bono in Practice
If you ask the typical law student why they seek their degree, many of them, with or without prodding, will tell you that they want to help people who may be unable to help themselves.
If you ask the typical lawyer to what extent he or she is able to help others in a pro bono or reduced-fee capacity, you might be pleased to discover how many lend a hand.
Many other attorneys, though, will ask how those efforts fit into their practice.
“Very well, thank you,” would be the response from the lawyers featured in this month’s cover story by Leslie Ross.
Is the consideration of fee and no-fee a balancing act? You bet, these lawyers admit. But it is a paradoxical balance: The more they help, the more they achieve equilibrium in their lives and practice.
Many lawyers sense that today is simply not the right time to extend a legal hand. And they’re right: The time is never perfect. As Cesar Ternieden notes in the story, you may have too many clients or too few, too little time or—a frightening prospect—too much time.
But waiting for the perfect time is rarely a recipe for success (if all of us parents waited until the perfect time to have children, our population would be pretty small).
Instead, these lawyers suggest a different worldview. Pro bono work can be done in service to the client—and benefit you, as well, whether seen through the prism of increased experience, client and lawyer contacts or a sense of accomplishment.
As Cesar says, “There is always an excuse for not doing pro bono.” How much better it is to see the pro bono plunge—without excuses—as an expedition into profitable territory.
Here’s hoping your own scale is in balance.
As always, send me your thoughts: firstname.lastname@example.org
Leslie’s story Practical Pro Bono begins:
Let’s face it: Helping out can seem an overwhelming task.
Our family, our friends, our jobs and ourselves give us more than enough to worry about. As it is, there already seems to be too little of those resources that make up life—time and money. The idea of helping out or giving back to the community can seem impossible, a task best left to others.
Despite this, some Arizona attorneys devote themselves to community organizations and volunteer lawyer programs that change lives. These attorneys have learned to balance their pro bono endeavors with their work and personal lives.
It is not because they are superhuman. It is because their pro bono work energizes them. Pro bono law can be the reality-based reminder that democratic law exists to help people. It is an area of law where individuals can positively affect the lives of those in need.
Keep reading here.