In honor of National Celebrate Pro Bono Week, Pro Bono Net has lined up a variety of guest bloggers from law firms, legal aid organizations and elsewhere to share their pro bono ideas and experiences. Check back each day between Oct. 22-26 for new posts, and visit the Celebrate Pro Bono site to learn how you can get involved in events near you.
Below, we are pleased to present a guest post from Rachel D. Andron, the Director of the Public Interest Center at St. John’s School of Law.
As pro bono week approaches, I always reflect upon St. John’s University’s Vincentian mission. Inspired by St. Vincent de Paul’s compassion and zeal for service, the mission of the University calls us to “search out the causes of poverty and social injustice and to encourage solutions which are adaptable, effective, and concrete.”
Public interest work goes hand in hand with that mission and tradition. Providing assistance to all people, especially those lacking economic, physical, or social advantages is the mission of our school. As lawyers, we have a unique privilege to be able to pursue our mission though the law. As law students, through each day of law school, our students are acquiring the tools to use the law in pursuit of social justice and access to justice.
I have found law students to be a hard working, earnest and genuine group. They have drive, dedication and a strong work ethic. And they are eager to give back to their communities. Those of us fortunate enough to work with these students are in a unique position to help guide these good efforts. We can urge our students to consider spending their summers working with a public interest organization, gaining valuable legal skills and experience representing clients and communities who have traditionally been underserved. We can encourage them to devote time to a pro bono project. By doing pro bono work and getting involved they have the opportunity to meet public interest and public service practitioners and see clearly how their work directly impacts disenfranchised individuals and groups. I strive to always help my students realize how much they have to give and how much they have to gain as well in terms of practical skills, networking and making connections. There is no limit to the kind of impact they can have on the community as lawyers in training. And there is no limit to the kind of opportunities we can offer to our students by providing them with the right kind of guidance and the right kind of opportunities.
Thanks to the 50 hour pro bono requirement for admission to the New York bar, students are entering law school with pro bono on their mental to do list and are eager to find opportunities to get involved. They realize that from day one that they should begin to incorporate pro bono work into their law school experience. We must encourage them to continue those efforts over the next 3 years and make an impact in such areas as domestic violence, child advocacy, consumer debt, housing court resolution, international human rights, family law, and many more. We can help them to see pro bono work as more than a requirement but as something intrinsic to our profession-a professional value that is fundamental and ongoing.
I remember being a college graduate working as a legal assistant between college and law school and jumping at the opportunity to participate in a pro bono matter. I was so moved by the legal services lawyer’s dedication to her work and the courage and drive of the domestic violence survivor for whom we provided services. On a micro level, I saw the law as a tool to help affect positive change in one person’s life but I could easily envision the kind of impact the law could have on a macro level in our communities. Such experiences really shape how students approach their studies, their internship choices and career aspirations. If students can get involved early on and see how impactful and important pro bono work is, they will remain committed and incorporate service into their careers for the long term.