October 2016

Do Pro Bono. For you. For your career. For the pursuit of justice.

By Parisa Ijadi-Maghsoodi

Pro Bono Manager and Supervising Attorney, San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program

As thousands of experienced San Diego attorneys can attest, pro bono work provides one-of-a-kind, in-the-trenches, high-quality and fast-paced legal training to new and rising lawyers.  For free.

Pro Bono Work Helps You Build Your Reputation

In addition to practical skills and substantive legal training, pro bono work provides a legal experience that can help rising attorneys separate themselves from others during an initial job search or lateral transfer. 

Serving as a pro bono attorney with a prominent pro bono provider such as SDVLP can connect a new lawyer to others in the legal community and offer exposure to judges, attorneys from private firms, and community leaders.  As a pro bono attorney, you will be meeting these individuals in your capacity as a licensed attorney, but moreover, in your capacity as an attorney dedicated to representing disadvantaged clients on a pro bono basis.

For a profession grounded in reputation, the benefits of pro bono cannot be understated.  Few attorneys achieve positions as judges, elected officials, partners at large firms, or leaders in the community without a strong background in pro bono service.

Volunteer to Build Your Resume, Legal Knowledge, and Trial Skills

Pro bono work provides practical legal experience necessary to land a job, develop and hone  legal skills, gain substantive knowledge in a new practice area, and provides the experience — litigation and transactional  to grow and develop as an attorney.  

For decades, pro bono has provided new, mid-level, and experienced attorneys invaluable, practical training in what it means to be an effective, confident, and ethical lawyer while serving a crucial role in the fight for fundamental human rights and social justice for low-income San Diegans.

For new lawyers, pro bono legal work can be a launching pad.  While internships and law school clinics start to train law students in practice and procedure, few recently licensed attorneys are truly ready to take on their first case.  Pro bono attorneys obtain effective, hands-on legal training by working directly with clients on actual cases under the mentorship of an experienced staff attorney.  It is rare to obtain free, high-quality, hands-on legal training in a professional setting outside of law school.  Pro bono work can provide this vital training ground.

“Pro bono assignments are win-win situations for associates and partners alike.  They allow attorneys in all stages of their careers to give back to the community, an obvious win.  And, pro bono opportunities especially benefit young attorneys to get practical court and deposition experience that is otherwise difficult to obtain, a win-win for associates and partners equally interested and invested in the development of the associate’s skills and talent.” Ellen Adler, Morrison & Foerster LLP.

For new lawyers seeking a career in public interest law, exposure to training on the types of issues and scenarios faced by low-income clients is invaluable.  Through substantive trainings, strategic case discussions, and, most importantly, working with experienced practitioners, pro bono work helps to develop and perfect the skills needed to take on similar cases of one’s own. 

For new lawyers interested in corporate, real estate, estate planning, and many other areas of law, the transferable skills you gain from serving as a pro bono attorney is crucial to setting your resume apart from others.  For example, at SDVLP new lawyers become effective advocates and litigators by representing clients in family law court, gain transactional law experience through contract interpretation in real estate and housing law cases, hone legal writing skills by drafting estate planning documents for elderly clients and those with disabilities, and gain insight into the intricacies of healthcare law through representing those living with HIV/AIDS.  

Get Started Today!

Lawyers can volunteer in any of SDVLP’s practice areas, including health care law, family law, guardianship, disability law, public benefits, housing law, Social Security law, education law, estate planning, consumer law, nonprofit law, and discrimination law.  For more information, check out SDVLP’s 12 Frequently Asked Questions for new pro bono attorneys here

Other legal services organizations in San Diego offer additional volunteer opportunities. 

The best part about gaining substantive law knowledge and skills is not the fact that all the training and mentorship is free of cost, it is how you will feel after you take the case. 

You will be providing high-quality legal representation to an individual with a meritorious case who could not afford to pay for an attorney’s much-needed help.  Your pro bono work will certainly benefit your career, but more importantly, your pro bono work will transform the life of a low-income family, foster child, or homeless veteran. 

Do pro bono. For you. For your career. For the pursuit of justice.