Ask an attorney why he or she wanted to become a lawyer and a common response is, “To help people.” Day to day, however, many attorneys spend their time doing work they wouldn’t say helps people—at least, not in the way they imagined it would as a law student.
For many lawyers, pro bono work can restore the feeling that they’re helping the greater good. Those positive feelings, in turn, advance attorney well-being. If you need further convincing that a pro bono program can benefit overall wellness, no matter the size of your firm, consider some of the benefits below.
It’s hard to skim the headlines these days and not feel at least a little down about the state of things. Many attorneys who participate in pro bono work say it helps them feel like they’re contributing to something larger than themselves. That can boost mental resilience, or the ability to bounce back from a sad or negative experience. If pro bono work can recharge someone’s battery, so to speak, then there can be little argument that it’s good for overall morale.
Keep things fresh
Pro bono work can allow lawyers to practice an entirely different area of law than they normally do. In doing so, it helps attorneys gain new skills or exercise rarely used ones. Anyone with a job can tell you that doing the same exact type of work over and over for too long can be draining. If pro bono work provides a chance to try something new, it might reduce burnout and job dissatisfaction.
Encourage a sense of professional belonging
The American Bar Association strongly recommends that each and every attorney contribute 50 hours of pro bono work per year. Many state bar associations have special honor roll-type recognitions for lawyers who contribute that much or more. Performing pro bono work—and being recognized for it—can aid a sense of community or belonging. That’s valuable in a profession where it’s all too easy to hunch over a computer all day and, maybe without even realizing it, wind up feeling isolated.
Form new connections
When an attorney takes on a pro bono project, he or she will not only meet the client, but a supervising attorney as well. If that pro bono work involves an organization, he or she will make connections there, too, as well as with any other attorneys working on similar projects. In this way, pro bono work can help broaden one’s social and professional circles. That’s valuable because generally speaking, most people feel more engaged and connected with they perceive themselves to have many acquaintances, colleagues or friends.
Promote engagement and re-commitment
Not all lawyers feel ground-down by everyday practice, but many feel that way, at least sometimes. Because pro bono work can be a break from the norm, it’s often a breath of metaphorical fresh air. The mental break pro bono work can offer may very well translate to a newfound sense of connection and commitment to “normal” work.
At the end of the day, pro bono work is a significant positive, and not just for the client receiving free legal services. If your small law firm is having a conversation about lawyer wellness, don’t forget to include pro bono work in that discussion.
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