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Should You Be Bothered With Pro Bono Work? [By Judith Earley] According to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, pro bono is a phrase derived from Latin meaning “for the good.” The complete phrase is pro bono publico, “for the public good.” It is used to designate legal or other professional work undertaken voluntarily and without payment, as a public service. In some cases, pro bono counsel may assist an individual or group on a legal case in filing government applications or petitions or on appeal. If the case is won, occasionally the judge may determine that the loser should compensate the pro bono counsel.

It’s never too early to think about performing pro bono work. It can be both the most challenging and rewarding work you will ever do as an attorney. Many lawyers will tell you that the project they enjoyed most was one that they did pro bono. Many law students will tell you that performing pro bono work reminds them that they chose law in the first place in order to help people. Pro bono legal work can build a bridge of understanding of the real world of law with issues you are studying in class. Additionally, the “hands on” skills you develop in

civil rights, civil liberties or public rights, or to charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental or educational organizations in matters in furtherance of their organizational purposes, where the payment of standard legal fees would significantly deplete the organization’s economic resources or would be otherwise inappropriate. This, too, is pro bono work.

learn quick, fast, and in a hurry just what it is like to make life-altering

court can add to the marketable skills that

decisions for a client. •

attorney; these are effective

work in when you graduate. And finally, the

communication with your client,

professionals you meet while performing pro

strategic decision-making, and legal

bono legal work may turn out to be wonderful for work.

work out for your client. •

Cases that involve mistreated children, battered women, civil rights violations, or any type of courtroom litigation can take their toll and leave you emotionally drained by the time you return to school.

All in all, pro bono work is a unique opportunity to grow and mature that is unsurpassed by anything you can learn in the classroom. It is hands-on experience of case management from start to finish: negotiating, making decisions, and communicating with a real-life, flesh and blood client. It is the reality of why you went to law school. Experience it now.


evaluate the firm’s commitment to pro

work as work for which you, as a student, are not compensated either with pay or •

bono service. This can help you decide

Pro Bono Guide

whether or not you want to consider it

as a potential permanent home.


You have a chance to really make a


difference. It would be a shame if you passed it up.

Indiana University School of Law Pro Bono Program

And now, here are some reasons why you

probably should pass on doing pro bono


work. •

Time passes very quickly for a summer

Other qualifying examples, supplying

intern, and you might not be around

legal assistance to individuals, groups, or organizations seeking to secure or protect

to finish up the work or witness the


still disappointing when things do not

If you are working a summer internship, it is an opportunity to witness and

The Pro Bono Institute defines pro bono

assist attorneys who deliver legal services to persons of limited means or to charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental and educational organizations in matters which are designed primarily to address the needs of persons of limited means, that is pro bono work.

be because of anything you did, but it is

writing. •

with academic credit. Case in point: if you

You have a chance to practice the fundamental skills of a successful

down the areas of practice you would like to

networking contacts when you begin looking

Classroom work is one thing, but when you take on a pro bono project you will

pleadings, negotiating deals, or appearing in

bono legal work can also help you narrow

imagine the judge saying no. It may not

should consider doing pro bono work. •

You could lose. Just imagine your very first legal undertaking, and then

Here are some reasons why you absolutely

interviewing and counseling clients, drafting

you will need as a practicing attorney. Pro

resolution of your case.

Pro Bono Institute at Georgetown University Law Center

Should You Be Bothered With Pro Bono Work?  
Should You Be Bothered With Pro Bono Work?  

Pro bono legal may be wonderful networking when you begin looking for work. Pro bono counsel can on a legal case in government applications...