Involving paralegals in pro bono can enhance the services a pro bono program provides, for both clients and for volunteers. Services can be enhanced by the provision of supportive services for volunteer attorneys or by the provision of additional services for clients. With attorney supervision, paralegals can perform a wide variety of activities within a pro bono program, including:
- Intake interviews
- Representation at administrative hearings
Paralegals are a large pool of potential volunteers for any pro bono program. Pro bono programs may contact the local paralegal association to recruit volunteers or develop pro bono projects. State bar associations may be another possible starting point, as many have a legal assistants section or committee.
Policy Encouraging Paralegal Pro Bono Service
Canon 1.4 of the National Federation of Paralegal Association's (NFPA) Model Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility and Guidelines for Enforcement states that every paralegal should aspire annually to contribute twenty-four (24) hours of pro bono services under the supervision of an attorney or as authorized by administrative, statutory or court authority. In 1999, NFPA adopted the ABA's Model Rule 6.1 definition of pro bono .
The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) does not have an official policy regarding pro bono work by paralegals, however, the comments to Guideline No. 4 of NALA's Annotated Model Standards and Guidelines for Utilization of Legal Assistants, states, "The working relationship between the lawyer and the legal assistant should extend to cooperative efforts on public service activities where possible."
The ABA Standing Committee on Paralegals has long promoted paralegal participation in pro bono work through its Model Guidelines for the Utilization of Paralegal Services which states that lawyers should facilitate legal assistant participation in pro bono activities.
Resources Addressing Paralegal Pro Bono Involvement
Paralegal Today contains the article Getting Into The Pro Bono Program Game which describes how a paralegal can develop a firm-wide volunteer program.
The Fall 2003 UpDate, published by the ABA Standing Committee on Paralegals, contains articles on "Pro Bono & Paralegals: The Basics" and "Pro Bono Service as a Requirement: How Marymount University Launched Its Innovative Program." The Winter 2004 UpDate contains the article "Part 2: Pro Bono Service as a Requirement" as well as "Pro Bono: Getting Involved."
The National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) has a web page showcasing pro bono efforts by NFPA and its members. Additionally, there is a NFPA Pro Bono Directory, with information about the NFPA Pro Bono Committee and pro bono opportunities.
Finding Projects that Facilitate Pro Bono Participation by Paralegals
If you are a paralegal who wants to engage in pro bono, or if you know a paralegal who does, see The National Pro Bono Volunteer Opportunities Guide to find a program best suited for your needs and interests.
For More Information
The ABA Center for Pro Bono's Knowledge Center contains additional materials concerning ways to facilitate pro bono participation by paralegals, including brochures and articles. For more information, please contact the ABA Center for Pro Bono, by email the Center for Pro Bono.
Updated March 2020