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Top Ten Reasons To Take Pro Bono Cases

David Letterman has turned the "Top Ten" list into a late night comedy show staple, using the popular, simple format for conveying information to poke fun at everyone from celebrities to politicians to sports stars. This top ten list isn't likely to make you laugh, but if you take a look, you may find a reason or two that that reveals the tremendous impact your knowledge and skill can have on the life of someone who needs, but cannot pay for, legal representation. And you are also likely to find out how your knowledge, skill, practice and character will benefit from the experience.

#10. PRO BONO AND COMMUNITY SERVICE are just the right thing to do. When you decided to become an attorney, one of the attractions was joining an elite profession, not just learning a job. There's a reason that lawyers become community leaders. You understand the legal and political system from a unique standpoint. You can identify issues and assist our families, friends, neighbors, and communities in avoiding unpleasant experiences with those systems.

#9. A CHANCE TO DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT - a Pro Bono case can offer you an opportunity to handle a different type of case. Many legal pro bono organizations provide updates, support and guidance in case matters that you don't ordinarily handle in such areas as landlord/tenant, elderly consumer fraud, domestic abuse and administrative hearings.

#8. PRO BONO CASES TEACH YOU HOW TO TURN A POSITION OF WEAKNESS INTO A POSITION OF STRENGTH - People tend to think of Pro Bono clients, who often are indigent, to be among the weakest in terms of the power structure of our society. Ironically, anyone has who ever represented a judgment-proof client knows, there is strength in that position. For new lawyers, and even for some experienced lawyers, this type of "strength" may not be obvious, Pro Bono cases teaches you to use the facts and the law practically and in a manner that transforms weaknesses into strengths.

#7. RETIRED LAWYERS - Our clients benefit from the experience and expertise of retired counselors. Taking on Pro Bono cases is an awesome way to put your accumulated skills to good use.

#6. IF YOU ARE STUDYING FOR THE BAR OR CONDUCTING A JOB SEARCH - Pro Bono clients greatly benefit from the enthusiasm of law grads, newly relocated lawyers and lawyers seeking to re-enter the job market. The pro bono program a is remarkable way to gain valuable experience during a transitional phase in life.

#5. COURTROOM EXPERIENCE - Pro bono cases offer an opportunity for even brand new lawyers to get into the courtroom and to obtain valuable experience appearing before judges.

#4. DIFFICULT CIRCUMSTANCES, PRO BONO SHARPENS NEGOTIATING SKILLS - Pro Bono cases often require the use of your best negotiating skills. You learn how far you can go and still cut the best deal for your client. The application of this skill in your "real" legal life is obvious. These skills, learned by inexperienced lawyers in the Pro Bono context, prepare them for work for paying clients.

#3. PRO BONO CLIENTS ARE REAL PEOPLE WITH REAL PROBLEMS serve as a tangible reminder. Pro Bono cases directly impact people's lives in a meaningful and lasting way. To those of you who spend most of your time working in the world of high-impact, high-dollar business deals gone bad, assuring that an indigent client's electricity stays on or protecting someone from eviction may sound mundane, but these cases take on a level of urgency when you meet your client and think about what the alternatives might be living without electricity or a roof over your head. These cases are real, and they help you to count your blessings every day. We forget how lucky we are, and how the lives we lead are the result of our own choices (good and bad) rather than seemingly insurmountable circumstances.

#2. PRO BONO CASES USUALLY ARE NOT BIG CONSUMERS OF YOUR TIME - Most Pro Bono matters do not present complex legal or factual issues, requiring a minimal amount of actual lawyer time. Fortunately, while paying big dividends to your professional experience, the investment you make is relatively small.

Pro Bono clients simply need a lawyer to evaluate their legal rights and present their case. There are, of course, exceptions to this statement when you accept a novel or more complex matter. However, you generally know what lies ahead. For those that choose to take these cases, the rewards multiply accordingly.

#1. IT'S A SATISFACTION THING - Getting a "thank you" letter from an Order of Protection Pro Bono client. Her abuser had tried to shoot her, and she had the good sense to pretend she was dead so that he would leave her alone.

Notwithstanding his arrest and charge for attempted murder, he was out of jail awaiting trial. The client was terrified. A negotiated full order of protection order was entered, offering her the fullest protection of the law.

She didn't need to thank us, but she did. Every time that you manage to accomplish something for an individual or group in need of help, you will garner a sense of gratitude. You are fortunate to have the skills these people and groups need. You may even feel like a better lawyer and a better person. The opportunity to make this kind of contribution to our community and the knowledge that you have done so are their own rewards. Try it. You'll see