May the Pro Bono Force Be With You (Part One)

StarwardsMillions of people around the world – including us – were swept up in the excitement surrounding the much-anticipated release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” The new blockbuster has gotten us thinking about how Yoda’s classic insights and wisdom are universal and can be readily applied to law firm pro bono. We’ve come up with a few pieces of his advice that apply today just as well as they did a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away:

“Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

Yoda’s most memorable quote is particularly apt for January. With the new year comes a new opportunity to improve your firm’s pro bono performance. Set meaningful pro bono aspirations for 2016 and don’t just “try;” focus and fully commit to your goals. Whether that means launching new pro bono initiatives with adequate support and resources, creating innovative projects to serve underrepresented clients with unmet legal needs, or setting new, ambitious participation targets, there is always room to do more to promote access to justice in our communities. This year, let us commit to doing more pro bono, to doing better pro bono, and to recruiting others into the fold.

“Named must your fear be before banish it you can.”

What keeps some law firm lawyers on the sideline and inhibits them from getting involved? Fear of the unknown. Fear of failure. We are asking them to step outside their comfort zones and often work on poverty law matters outside of their areas of commercial expertise. Apprehension is understandable. Let’s acknowledge this phenomenon, “name” it, and then work to remedy it. There are many proven strategies and tactics that can be employed to both ensure competent representation in compliance with our ethical obligations and sensitively and effectively banish the fear of pro bono, including strategic project selection, meaningful and convenient training programs, mentoring, and team staffing of projects.

“If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will.”

We encourage firms with 50 or more lawyers to choose the right “path” and join the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®. For firms that have not yet enrolled because of a concern that it’s simply too late or that you cannot meet the Challenge goals, we encourage you to sign on and use this tool to advance pro bono at your firm. There is no downside to becoming a Challenge Signatory, as we do not publish disaggregated statistics, nor do we in any way identify individual firms as having met or not met their Challenge goals. Firms are welcome to enroll in the Challenge at any point of the year, and are given a grace period before the reporting requirement kicks in. Now is the perfect time for firms to join our efforts to improve access to justice. Please contact Law Firm Pro Bono Project Assistant Eva Richardson for more information on becoming a Signatory and a leader in law firm pro bono.

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Look out for more inspiration from Yoda next week!