Have you thought about talking to your boss or firm about setting aside more time for pro bono work? Why not use your excellent and highly regarded research skills to find and contact local bar associations or legal-assistant associations in order to determine the needs of your local community?

If you find a preexisting pro bono program, you're all set. If not, various guidelines exist with regard to starting one on your own. Present a plan to your superiors and emphasize that you want to volunteer but need more flexibility in order to do so. Here are several suggestions:

  • Ask if billable hours can count as pro bono hours. Refer to the "Pro Bono Institute Challenge"    (www.probonoinst.org/challenge.text.php), a contract in which a law firm commits 3% to 5% of its billable hours (60 or 100 hours per lawyer) to providing free legal services to the disenfranchised.
  • If you can show your superiors that other firms across the country have participated in such challenges, this may inspire them to get involved, too. Appeal to your firm's or boss's sense of wanting to keep up with other leading firms.
  • Research top firms or solo practitioners in your community who are already committed to pro bono work. Talk to them and find out what works instead of reinventing the wheel.
  • Use your persuasive skills to put together a compelling argument on why pro bono work is necessary. Mention work/life balance and suggest that increased productivity in the office will result from implementing this essential component.
  • Use visual aids. Pictures, graphs, tables, and statistics could be the keys to getting your point across.
  • Stay passionate! Find an issue that you are passionate about and research ways to get involved in a legal capacity. If you're passionate, your enthusiasm will likely rub off on your superiors. They will begin to get excited as well or at least support you in your endeavors.
  • Go to the Pro Bono Conference! It's not too late to sign up. Visit the National Federation of Paralegal Associations' website, www.paralegals.org, for more information.