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Pro bono: the gift that gives back

How to get more out of your good deeds

Pro bono work is a good way to give back to members of your community that are in need. But it can also be a great opportunity to invest in your firm’s public image and marketing efforts. Here is how to make the most out of your pro bono activity.

Why do pro bono?

American Bar Association Model Rule 6.1 states that all members should aspire to provide at least 50 hours of pro bono services each year in the interest of the public good. But just because your volunteer time is intended for the public doesn’t mean it can’t be good for you too. Besides the intangible rewards of your generosity, pro bono work can also be used to benefit your firm from a business perspective.

How to make pro bono work for you too

The key to getting more out of your pro bono work is to capitalize on the unique nature of those cases. Look at pro bono work as an investment in the future of your practice and leverage that time to benefit other aspects of the business. With a little bit of planning, you can capture the spirit of goodwill behind your philanthropy and use it to build up your firm.

Use pro bono cases to learn new skills and expand your legal expertise

Pro bono cases present a unique opportunity to expand your existing knowledge base. While an ordinary client might not be happy about paying for extra research time, a free client will be thankful that you took the time to serve them well. With billing out of the picture, you can take the time you need to research relevant cases and procedures without the usual pressure to maximize efficiency. Of course, this depends on the amount of time allotted to your pro bono work.

If you can choose which cases you want to volunteer for, all the better. You can strategically pick a topic that will benefit you the most. For instance, if there is a matter at hand that is closely related to your usual practice area, you can take it on pro bono to expand your legal capabilities quickly and easily. Or, if there is a specific legal need that is growing in your area, consider taking on such a matter to capitalize on that trend. Once the work is complete, you can use your new skills and knowledge to expand your list of advertised services and potential clients.

Build a positive reputation in your local community

A recent survey of legal consumers from FindLaw once again confirmed that the location and reputation of an attorney are among the most important factors that potential clients consider. This means that it is imperative to establish yourself as a trustworthy cornerstone of your community. Look for opportunities to use your pro bono hours helping local community organizations. The goodwill gained by serving a local client free of charge will go a long way towards earning their recommendation and will bolster your reputation among those who are most likely to come to you in the future. You can also monitor your local news and community social sites for more opportunities to get involved at a local level, building brand recognition and trust through great work.

Create an uplifting culture within your firm

No matter the size of your firm, having a positive company culture is key to employee engagement and retention. Training a new associate is estimated to cost up to $400,000, which means that keeping team members happy should be a major priority for any small or mid-sized firm. Many talented young attorneys today want to feel like their work serves a purpose that aligns with their own personal values. By taking on a meaningful pro bono case, you can help fulfill your team in ways that regular assignments may not. Such charitable actions also help prevent burnout and provide opportunities for your team to develop professionally as well. You can also share pro bono cases with members of your team to increase engagement and rally around a unified task. All of these things work towards the creation of a positive team spirit that will benefit productivity and work quality in the long run.

Serving your local community with pro bono work does a lot more than just make you feel good. If done properly, the benefit to your firm greatly outweighs the loss in immediate income. If you still need more good reasons to invest in pro bono work, National Pro Bono Week is coming up on October 20 -26. Then celebrate your work and all of the good that lawyers do on Love Your Lawyer Day, November 1. To learn more about how to make the most out of your pro bono hours, you can download our free pro bono playbook.

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