Why do more than 1,300 attorneys, paralegals and others volunteer their time in one of the King County Bar Association’s pro bono programs? Each month, new volunteers come to KCBA for an orientation to work in one of our pro bono programs and I ask them what motivated them to start volunteering now. Most say something about giving back, recognizing that being an attorney means that they are in a unique position to change the lives of people in our community.
Many go to law school because they want to do public service. Pro bono work gives wings to the idealism that led many to law school: to use their legal skills and expertise to solve problems that truly affect the lives of people who have nowhere else to turn.
New attorneys, in addition to wanting to do meaningful work that will make a difference in people’s lives, gain needed skills through their pro bono work. Our volunteers work with low-income clients who are often in crisis and facing the loss of housing, issues of family stability and safety, and other issues involving basic needs.
Pro bono work challenges our volunteers to develop excellent client interview skills. New attorneys also have the opportunity to negotiate with opposing counsel, appear in contested hearings and even, with training and mentorship, take a case from the pre-filing stage through resolution.
As I hope you are aware, the current Civil Legal Needs Study Update demonstrates that the need for pro bono services programs in Washington is greater than ever. (See the article on page 22 for more information or go to http://ocla.wa.gov/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/CivilLegalNeedsStudy_October2015_V21_Final10_14_15.pdf.)
We have several wonderful, staffed, legal service programs in Washington where dedicated legal aid attorneys work hard to provide meaningful access to justice for their clients. But the reality is that the need is far too great to be addressed by legal aid attorneys alone.
The pro bono work provided by the private bar is an essential component of our civil legal aid delivery system. The many members of the private bar who provide pro bono work through KCBA, their own firms or other legal aid organizations contribute greatly to the goal of making justice a reality for all. But many more volunteers are needed if we are to make sure that poverty never stands in the way of justice.
Whether you are inspired to do pro bono work out of a desire for public service, are looking for ways to improve your skills or beef up your résumé or just want something different to do, I hope that you will consider joining the fantastic team of volunteers who dedicate their time and skills to the KCBA Pro Bono Services programs.
I would love to answer any questions you have about our pro bono opportunities. You can learn more about our programs at http://www.kcba.org/pbs/ or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.