Pro bono legal service is, of course, the free gift of expertise to someone who cannot afford an attorney. But it is also much more; pro bono service benefits lawyers just as much as the people they serve at no cost, say experts.
That was among the main messages to come from “Pro Bono: Lawyering for the Good of the Public—and You,” an Oct. 23 panel discussion at the Columbus School of Law sponsored by the law school’s pro bono program.
“Advocacy and client-building skills come from pro bono work. You’ll learn how to be a leader,” said Cait Clarke (left), a CUA Law alumna from the Class of 1986 and currently a director with the National Legal Aid and Defender Association.
Clarke has lived overseas and held a number of positions within the legal world, including law clerk, trainer, policy reform strategist, and proponent of holistic criminal justice strategies. She has also served on the faculty of several law schools.
In every setting, she told the student audience, the willingness to connect with and serve others has benefitted her personally and professionally. In fact, said Clarke, a person she met through pro bono service while a student who was able to assist her many years later when she and her husband decided to adopt a baby.
“Those days of volunteering at CUA law school came full circle,” said Clarke.
Fellow panelist Shavon Smith (left), an associate with Dickstein Shapiro in Washington, D.C., participates extensively in her firm’s pro bono program. The firm credits up to 100 pro bono hours per year as billable time.
“You think of pro bono service as something you want to do. It makes you a better lawyer,” said Smith, who logs most of her donated hours on Saturday mornings.
In addition to the panelists, students were briefly addressed by a representative from the Catholic Legal Immigration Network and by CUA Law 3L Maria Perrone, who described the volunteer activities of the law school’s Legal Services Society.