Towards Thankfulness and Abundance: A Call to Action
If you’ve never done pro-bono legal work before, you are in for something special. Once attorneys provide pro-bono work, they put themselves on an ever-expanding path of giving. There is something forcefully empowering about “leveraging” your time and legal talent; you realize that by a change of focus from income to impact you can change somebody’s life – you can change many lives. Use your time to help others, and you will reap rewards way far beyond your expectations.
When this article appeared earlier, it was prefaced by an inspirational quote from Contra Costa Superior Court Judge David B. Flinn (Ret.) who wrote:
“Pro-bono attorneys provide an absolutely vital function to our courts. Without them, both our judicial system and the public perception of our courts would be undermined: public perception would be that justice can only be obtained in proportion to the amount of money someone happens to have to spend on obtaining that amount of justice.”
Judge Flinn’s quote unmistakably reminds us of the significant impact pro bono legal work has on our courts and the public perception of our judicial system. For this reason, our court, the bar association and the many local non-profit pro-bono service providers gladly offer mentoring, professional development, training and sometimes co-counsel relationships to volunteer attorneys.
At this time of year, there is another important reason you should make a personal commitment to provide pro-bono legal work each year: it’s good for you, good for your health and good for those around you. Studies confirm that an obsessive focus on material gain causes both physical and emotional burn-out.
It has been said that, “any volunteering is good volunteering” and that expression is certainly appropriate with respect to pro bono legal work. Through providing pro-bono legal work, one realizes almost immediately that those who need your help are most often the elderly, the frail, those who have become disabled or those who are at that time facing severe financial challenges. By aiding this group, one is almost certain to feel more positive about oneself. By intentionally giving of one’s time and talents to those less fortunate, both the client and the attorney benefit. Volunteering provides many benefits to both mental and physical health and helps counteract the effects of stress, anger, and anxiety. For many reasons, helping others and working without expectation of compensation can have a profound effect on your overall psychological well-being.
“How often during one’s legal career can one point to service, not compulsion, as the principal motivation for one’s legal work? This is what pro bono legal work offers. You may perhaps represent a particular person. You may possibly advocate on behalf of a particular cause. But above all, you serve: you serve the public interest; you serve the judicial system.”
–Contra Costa Superior Court Judge John H. Sugiyama
What is perhaps most notable is that even when attorneys and law firms provide relatively small amounts of pro-bono legal work, they can utterly change someone’s life for the better. Pro-bono clients are thrilled to have an attorney answering their legal question, or working on their matter, rather than having to attempt to represent themselves – even if that attorney is also working through the learning curve.
If you haven’t provided pro-bono legal work before, make a resolution by the end of the year to start doing so. You will be amazed by the abundant benefits it provides to everyone involved and around you.
If you know someone to feature in the CCCBA Spotlight for their Pro Bono Legal work, please contact me at (925) 639-0221 or [email protected]