The Importance of Pro Bono Services
Updated: Sep 13
From a very early age, we ask children what they want to do when they grow up. If they are old enough to have grown out of the phase of wanting to be an astronaut or a cowboy, two of the most common answers you will hear are "doctor" and "lawyer." When asked why they want to go into those professions, many will say they want to help people.
Many young people want to go into law because they have a parent or other family member who is an attorney and wish to emulate them. For others, they see the flood of legal dramas on television and decide that is what they want to do. Most people from the latter group are usually surprised to learn how much time is not spent in an ornately decorated courtroom, and rarely does anyone get to jump out of their seat, throw their hands in the air, and yell, "I object!" with the gusto of an umpire screaming "you're out!" at a play at the plate during the final game of the World Series.
Law School sets expectations early on regarding what the legal profession entails and what our responsibilities are. Justice is not a luxury for the rich, rather, justice is something that everyone deserves.
Instilling the idea of Pro Bono work early on is a great way to reiterate why many people choose a profession in law. With law schools teaching the importance of Pro Bono work and making opportunities available, many law students are taking their desire to help people through to fruition by incorporating Pro Bono services into their practice. Offering Pro Bono opportunities also teaches law students the stark economic reality in the United States, where legal services can be expensive and out of reach for the economically disadvantaged. Many people rely on Pro Bono legal services for some of the most basic needs, such as government benefits, income, utilities, child support, and even physical protection.
Pro Bono work is so essential to the mission of making legal services available to everyone that many law schools are making Pro Bono hours a graduation requirement. Other schools that do not make it a condition of graduation still incentivize students with notations on their transcripts sent to potential employers, by conferring rewards at graduation and other forms of recognition. Pro Bono work is also something that many states require as a condition for being admitted to the bar. For example, New York requires 50 hours of Pro Bono work for admission.
Outside of law school, it is vital that law firms establish a Pro Bono policy that is adhered to by everyone from the partners to the associates. Having everyone participating in Pro Bono services sends the message to new associates that helping those who cannot help themselves does not end with Law School. It is an integral part of our profession and should be an ongoing goal for everyone.
Choosing an area in which to help is like selecting a charity to support. There is no shortage of people and causes that require legal aid. It is a matter of what you find important and where you will choose to spend your time and effort.
Pro Bono Services is part of the culture at Stagg Wabnik Law Group. We provide legal help to servicemembers and their families in areas such as employment law, family law, guardianship, and other areas as needed. Our focus is to assist service members, many of whom are stationed out of state or deployed, who encounter legal issues.
In addition, Stagg Wabnik Law Group provides pro bono legal support to Kids in Need of Defense (KIND). KIND is a non-profit organization committed to helping provide legal counsel to refugee and immigrant children who come to the United States without their parents or legal guardian. Many children supported by KIND seek a safe haven from human rights abuses, domestic violence, and trafficking.
Stagg Wabnik Law Group encourages its attorneys and employees to bring matters to the firm's attention in which we may provide pro bono assistance. Once our firm accepts a pro bono matter, it is treated similarly to all other issues. Accordingly, we allocate our resources and time to zealously represent our pro bono clients to achieve the client's desired outcome.
When a person graduates from Law School, there is a whirlwind of activity. Looking for a job, studying for the Bar Exam, and figuring out how to start to pay back student loans are just a few things new graduates have to deal with. Preparing for interviews can be a full-time job on its own. However, we should continually remind ourselves that we have chosen a noble profession with high ideals and ethical demands. Regardless of what area of law we decide to pursue or where and how we choose to practice, that responsibility of fulfilling the promise of equal justice under the law will always be there, and we must all answer the call.