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Pro Bono, Justice and Wellness: Highlights from the 2021 Law Firm Pro Bono Roundtable

On September 22nd, law firm pro bono leaders met remotely for the Law Firm Pro Bono Roundtable. Below are the results and take-aways from the discussion.

Strategizing Around Remote Pro Bono Challenges & Successes

Attendees named numerous challenges with doing pro bono work virtually. Attendees noted they observe a significant number of attorneys are feeling burnt out by the pandemic. Zoom calls and interactions are less attractive than they had been a year and a half ago. It is also harder to get people to commit to virtual clinics and events since they are easier to skip than in-person events.

On the other hand, firms are noticing that those who are doing pro bono work are seeing benefits from the virtual setting. Some at-home, virtual pro bono options are easier, and people have had a bit more availability working from home than they used to. The technology infrastructure is now in place to allow more people to do remote pro bono work since there isn’t as much travel involved, either when meeting with the client or attending court for a pro bono case.

How to use pro bono work to advance racial justice

The attendees began this discussion by defining what we mean by “racial justice.” One definition the group decided on was an unjust action that derives itself from racism. Racial justice cannot be limited to the court rooms but should be embodied by the attorneys. It is important to educate associates on racial justice issues still going on and include diverse individuals in our firms.

Attendees noted they were seeing less interest in racial justice pro bono work as compared to last year but that firms were still focusing discussions on racism and racial justice. They affirmed it is important to maintain focus on the work, even when it isn’t always in the news.

Responding to New Crises Using Pro Bono

Attendees discussed ways to prepare for different crises before they happen. One suggestion was to create manuals to discuss how to handle typical “crisis” situations such as immigration issues, natural disasters, etc. While it is impossible to be totally prepared for an unexpected crisis, gathering materials beforehand could help have a smoother transition when a crisis does hit. Additionally, finding ways to educate attorneys on how current pro bono opportunities fit within current events can help motivate volunteers to participate in activities that aren’t directly related to the crisis.

Encouraging Wellness for Pro Bono Attorneys

Different law firms handle wellness in different ways. One suggestion was to connect with the wellness director or office within the firm to discuss ways to tie in wellness and well being into pro bono training. Another idea was to encourage pro bono work in teams to help alleviate some of the stress and encourage regular check-ins with the teams. It also helps to remind lawyers that the pro bono work they are doing is impactful and important.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Law Firm Pro Bono Roundtable. We look forward to seeing everyone at our Illinois Forum on Pro Bono later this fall. More details for that program will be available soon.

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Posted in 2021 Roundtables.