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Pro Bono Work and Career Networking for Law Students

published July 09, 2012

By CEO and Founder - BCG Attorney Search left
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( 10 votes, average: 4.1 out of 5)
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Pro bono work is gaining momentum in the biggest law firms once again. For law students who aspire to practice in law firms it is important to watch what the firms are doing, and it is important to find common footing to attain interviews. Pro bono work offers a common ground of interaction between law students and lawyers.
Pro bono work in law firms

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Firms which were recalcitrant to spare time and lawyers for doing pro bono work in the late 90s were brought to their senses by the harsh reality of the recession and taught that losing their connection to the people who make up our society is a dangerous business decision. Additionally, during the recession a number of firms put the hiring of associates on hold, and these associates were provided with small stipends to engage in pro bono activities. Today, almost all top law firms as well as small and mid-level law firms have established pro bono programs. As Esther Lardent, president of the Pro Bono Institute says, “research has shown that what makes good moral and ethical sense – happily – makes good business sense, too.” (Esther F. Lardent, “Pro Bono Work is Good for Business,” The National Law Journal, March 7, 2001.)

Pro bono work at law firms and clinics

Law firms now recognize that pro bono work is an inexpensive and efficient tool to develop law students who are their new associates. It provides law firms the opportunity of providing hands-on experience to their associates without garnering the risk of losing established clients through lack of expertise and inexperience of those on the job. Pro bono cases expose law students to regular professional activities like questioning witnesses, conducting client interviews, appearing in court, doing real research, and the preparation of drafts and documents under the supervision of experienced practitioners – the benefits are endless. Pro bono work allows law firms to develop professional human resources with little business risk. Naturally, law firms engage in pro bono clinics, and law students who want to make a difference participate in pro bono clinics. These law students will often incur the unexpected bonus of meeting recruiters, mentors, and expanding their professional network.

Split summer pro bono work for law students

Many big law firms have a split-summer program for their summer associates where they engage summer associates in pro bono work. Usually the amount of time devoted to such pro bono work varies from two to six weeks. Students receive their full summer associate salary while working with the public interest agencies.

While some firms require split-summer associates to attend only defined pro bono work and agencies, there are many other firms that offer freedom to their associates so that these budding attorneys are able to make their own choices about the pro bono part of their program.

Pro bono summer associate work in a law firm

Usually, for most law students, the opportunity to do pro bono work with a large firm is through a summer associate position. These positions provide the summer associate with an opportunity to un cover the firm's commitment to pro bono services and also to evaluate the firm for a potential long-term placement. To network and gain the best advantages from doing pro bono work inside a firm follow these tips:

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  • If no pro bono work has been automatically assigned to you, ask for it and ask for the chance to work on a pro bono matter with a good lawyer or associate.
  • Open up and ask questions. Partners and big attorneys are not the only people in a law firm who are valuable contacts. Paralegals, secretaries, associates, there are all manners of legal personnel in a law firm – ask questions, get answers, work and develop relations.
  • Find out the scope of pro bono work done by the firm. If your intention is to become a corporate lawyer then transactional pro bono work is good for you – it would help to develop the right kind of experience and contacts you need.
  • Ask for the pro bono manual – most law firms have a pro bono manual and it would list organizations where you can work. The manual would also explain the policies and procedures of pro bono work, and what you may or may not do.
The benefit you shall receive from your effort really depends upon your hard work and dedication to give your pro bono projects your best so that you may further develop your career. If you have the option, choose the kind of pro bono work that is in line with your career objectives. Pro bono work does not have the pressures of the billable hour associated with the projects and these opportunities help you to interact with other people and network in a more relaxed environment rather than doing the bare minimum summer associate work at the firm.

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Alternative Summary

Harrison is the founder of BCG Attorney Search and several companies in the legal employment space that collectively gets thousands of attorneys jobs each year. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placement attract millions of reads each year. Harrison is widely considered the most successful recruiter in the United States and personally places multiple attorneys most weeks. His articles on legal search and placement are read by attorneys, law students and others millions of times per year.

More about Harrison

About LawCrossing

LawCrossing has received tens of thousands of attorneys jobs and has been the leading legal job board in the United States for almost two decades. LawCrossing helps attorneys dramatically improve their careers by locating every legal job opening in the market. Unlike other job sites, LawCrossing consolidates every job in the legal market and posts jobs regardless of whether or not an employer is paying. LawCrossing takes your legal career seriously and understands the legal profession. For more information, please visit

published July 09, 2012

By CEO and Founder - BCG Attorney Search left
( 10 votes, average: 4.1 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.