Networking Through Pro Bono Work

Lauren Hunt Brogdon is an associate in the Houston office of Norton Rose Fulbright. She focuses her practice on energy litigation. She contributes regularly to The Hydraulic Fracking Blog.

As a new lawyer in the litigation section of a huge firm, I often felt like more was expected of me than I could handle. Learning the ropes of the office, logging billable hours, getting involved in the bar association, and having some sort of work/life balance: it was enough to make my head spin. There was also my firm’s emphasis on pro bono work, which was not required but highly encouraged for all attorneys, especially associates. I was told it was a great way to get your feet wet as a young lawyer, get involved in the bar, and give back, all at the same time.

So I said yes when a senior associate invited me to tag along to a pro bono legal clinic that my firm sponsored with one of our clients and a group called Houston Volunteer Lawyers (HVL). At this clinic, attorneys from our firm were paired up with in-house attorneys and interviewed residents at a local battered women’s shelter to determine whether the women were eligible for pro bono representation in family court. Given that my knowledge of family law was based entirely on BARBRI outlines and the fact that I had been a lawyer for all of three weeks, I was extremely nervous. OK, terrified. The in-house attorneys were some of our firm’s biggest clients. Were they really trusting me to partner with one and . . . (gulp!) . . . provide legal advice?!

But something great happened. I witnessed the courage of the women sitting in front of me, the strength with which they told their stories, and the gratitude they felt after receiving even the most basic legal advice (that I was thankfully able to verify with a cheat sheet HVL had provided). After the last woman left, the in-house attorney and I—having bonded through this shared experience—began to talk. Not about the types of cases my firm handled, or his company’s legal needs, but about the women we interviewed, the shelter’s work, and other pro bono work about which he felt passionately. When we exchanged cards at the end of the clinic, it was neither forced nor planned—just a natural desire to keep in touch after a shared and memorable experience (one in which I had even provided legal advice!).

Since then, I cannot volunteer enough. I still go to that clinic every month and have met countless potential clients doing so. I organized my firm’s participation in a charitable 5K benefitting the women’s shelter. I feel particularly fortunate to have been chosen for the board of directors of HVL and, through my work there, have met others who are passionate about pro bono work. I even joined my local Junior League chapter to extend my passion for volunteerism to non-legal avenues, and I have formed invaluable business relationships and friendships through that great organization. I am thankful that I am able to pass on my legal ability, in any capacity, to those less fortunate. Networking is just an added bonus.


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