The Bar Association of San Francisco (BASF) Board of Directors recently voted to release a new call to action encouraging members and law firms to give back with pro bono service. A set of pro bono pledges, one aimed at law firms and one at individual attorneys, urges 50 hours of pro bono service or taking one pro bono matter in 2015.
The BASF pro bono pledges are unique in that they call on each BASF member to integrate pro bono service into his or her practice. Law firms signatories are being asked to pledge to developing the infrastructure and policies needed for each of one of their attorneys to fulfill their individual pro bono commitment.
Five Reasons You Should Sign the Pro Bono Pledge
1. Giving a voice to the unrepresented – Pro bono service stabilizes the lives of low-income people, prevents homelessness, protects survivors of domestic violence, keeps families together and guards individuals’ limited income from unscrupulous debt collectors.
With an ever-widening justice gap, economic inequality and limited public resources pro bono attorneys are a precious resource to low-income people attempting to navigate a complex legal system without representation. Each year in San Francisco over 800 households facing eviction have not secured representation four days before trial. In California 80% of litigants in family matters, including child custody cases, do not have counsel. Your pro bono service will provide access to justice for these low-income people whose basic human needs are at risk.
2. Training, experience, and opportunity – Pro bono service gives you valuable training and hands on experience in case strategy and management, client communications, negotiations, document drafting, discovery, and hearings.
Pro bono projects, such as JDC’s, offer training in procedures and substantive law, malpractice coverage, and mentoring by experienced staff attorneys or practitioners lending their expertise to pro bono attorneys. Handling your own pro bono case allows you the opportunity to manage all components of a case and gives you hands-on experience in discovery, law and motion, negotiation, drafting documents, and perhaps even a jury trial.
3. Business development – Pro bono service increases visibility and helps you build your business.
Pro bono service is good for business. Whether you’re a solo practitioner or a law firm attorney, your pro bono service makes it known that you and your law practice are good community citizens and strong advocates. While the connections made doing pro bono work often result in business and client referrals. Established pro bono programs, including JDC, publically recognize exceptional volunteers through on-line and print media as well as nominations for local, state, and national pro bono awards.
4. Judicial recognition – Pro bono service is highly regarded and appreciated by judges.
Judges appreciate that pro bono attorneys are needed for the courts to provide meaningful access to justice. Judges and court staff also recognize that pro bono attorneys save them time that they would have spent helping unrepresented litigants. Many state and federal judges publicly thank pro bono counsel in the courtroom and during pro bono appreciation events as well as grant preference on motion calendars or grant continuances when pro bono counsel enters a case.
5. Meeting new and interesting people – Pro bono service is good for your well-being and helps build a sense of community with others.
Pro bono service is legal yoga focused on helping others. As you develop and hone your legal skills you employ your education and talent helping others while meeting a new community of people you otherwise may not have occasion to meet. That community includes your clients, the attorneys and experts involved in the matter, and your co-workers. Working on pro bono projects together can be a team-building experience for colleagues and gives a connection with your community from giving back, and a chance to use your legal skills to truly change lives.
Pro Bono Opportunities
To find out about pro bono opportunities with the Justice & Diversity Center’s Legal Services Programs, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.sfbar.org/jdc.