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August 29, 2022 Practice Points

The Pro Bono You Know

We all know that using our skills, education, and resources for the public good is important, but how often do we really put our time where our mouth is?

By Kasey Mitchell Adams

During the week of October 23, 2022, big firms, small firms, and individual lawyers across the country will engage in activities for the greater good as part of the National Celebration of Pro Bono. In Latin, pro bono literally means “for the public good.” On the surface, we all know that using our unique skill sets, education, and resources for the public good is important, but how often (and how intentionally) do we really put our time where our mouth is?

Why attorneys don’t:

  • Time: We all know that time is money, particularly in the legal field. Lack of time is one of the most frequently cited reasons for attorneys not actively engaging in pro bono service in their communities.
  • Money: For some attorneys, especially small firms or solo practitioners, the costs associated with doing pro bono work can be significant from both a monetary, time, and resource perspective.
  • Lack of Knowledge: A lack of understanding of what types of activities qualify as pro bono work or how to find or get involved in pro bono work.
  • Fear: Many attorneys fear engaging in pro bono work, particularly when it is outside their area of expertise, out of concern for being substantively “out of their lane” or not knowing how to perform the work required.

Why attorneys should:

  • Does Good: Investing in the judicial system is critical to our profession and to society in general.
  • Practical Experience: Gain valuable skills that you otherwise would not have the ability to obtain, get on your feet in front of a judge or even a jury when you otherwise might not, and put your legal skills and education to real use.
  • Networking: Engaging in pro bono efforts can put you in touch with attorneys from all different types of practice as you develop a network of like-minded professionals.
  • Is “Strongly Recommended”: Nearly every state bar association in the country includes provisions in their rules of professional conduct urging lawyers to engage in pro bono work. Several states even mandate reporting of pro bono hours. Know your state’s requirements, and engage in efforts to comply.

As we enter the month dedicated to celebrating pro bono efforts, take some time to consider the reasons you (or other attorneys you know) do not pro bono in general or as frequently as you could. Think about ways that you, your law firm, or your professional organizations can work to remove the barriers that prevent others from serving their communities in this important way. Encourage one another, go out, and do some public good. For more information on efforts you can engage in or to learn how to be a part of the 2022 National Celebration of Pro Bono, please visit the ABA website

Kasey Mitchell Adams is an attorney with Butler Snow LLP in Jackson, Mississippi. She also currently serves as cochair of the Litigation Section’s Mass Tort Committee’s Young Lawyers Subcommittee.

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