Last month, I discussed why it’s important, when possible, for lawyers to volunteer for pro bono work. In summary, pro bono helps your career in three ways: it enhances your skill sets, offers opportunities to build relationships within the legal community and beyond, and allows you to demonstrate leadership skills.
Understanding the role pro bono plays in your career is the first step. Finding the right pro bono opportunities for you is the next. No doubt, you will be guided by your individual beliefs and likely target organizations that are doing work you strongly support.
In Chicago, for example, one organization I support and recommend is the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing (LCBH). Established in 1980, LCBH works to protect the rights of tenants, ensuring “safe, decent, and accessible affordable housing on a non-discriminatory basis through legal representation, advocacy, education, outreach and supportive services.”
The organization’s Pro Bono Coordinator Samira Nazem recruits lawyers interested in representing its clients. She works closely with each recruit to understand their interests and availability. She then distributes a monthly case list of potential assignments, complete with matters needing anywhere from 10 hours to full-blown trials. Lawyers are free to choose the matters on which they’d like to work and are not obligated to take assigned cases.
Lawyer volunteers at LCBH run the gamut and include everyone from new law school grads and lawyers on the job market to seasoned lawyers who are fully employed. LCBH also partners with law firms that encourage first-year associates to handle cases—providing training and courtroom experience they may not be getting otherwise.
Most importantly, involvement with LCBH provides the gratification that comes with protecting the rights of renters, often families facing eviction or foreclosure.
Of course, there are many organizations throughout the country that offer pro bono opportunities for lawyers. No matter where you end up offering your legal services, the experience is rewarding in many ways. After all, not only are you advancing your own career by taking on pro bono work, you’re making a difference, and having a positive impact on the well-being of those in need.