The Pros of Pro Bono


Stuck at home this summer? Tired of re-watching episodes of Avatar the Last Airbender? Sick of your parents making you feel guilty for not having a summer job? Do some pro bono work! For one thing, it will get you out of the house; for another, it’s a graduation requirement you can easily knock out between binge fests.  

To get started, reach out to your school’s pro bono department or look online for opportunities. Typical projects include: criminal expungements, job fairs, name changes for members of the LGBTQ+ community, consumer complaints, organizing a food or supply drive for the local prison system, and even staffing an “Ask a Lawyer” telephone line. While some of the opportunities may be exclusive to those with a license, many organizations will have a variety of ways for students of all ages and experience to get involved. 

Still not convinced pro bono work is a great way to spend your summer? Think of it as an investment in your career. Volunteering your time in the legal community is: 

  • A great way to give back. Not only are you fulfilling your state/school’s pro bono requirement (where applicable), but you are also practicing the skills you will use in the future to earn an income. While it may be frustrating to volunteer and receive nothing (especially when jobs are scarce during the COVID pandemic), it’s better to get out there and do something instead of staying home and moping. If you are concerned about going out into public during the pandemic, consider online opportunities: there are still a variety of ways you can give back without even leaving your couch! 
  • An excellent networking opportunity. Think of the people you will meet! A lot of top-tier firms will reimburse or pay employees to volunteer; how’d you like to meet a partner at Faegre Drinker while chopping vegetables at a food kitchen or working a supply drive? All that networking certainly can’t be a bad thing! 
  • Adds additional experience to your resume.  With everything going on in the world right now, it’s understandable that the next few graduating classes will be a little short on legal experience. Stand out among your classmates by going above and beyond with pro bono experience.  While you won’t get paid, if you’re lucky you may get class credit or even a shining letter of recommendation, which certainly comes in handy during a job search. 
  • Allows you to do something outside of normal practice. It can be difficult to know what type of law you’d like to practice—while Elle Woods enrolled in law school to follow her “dream man,” maybe you wanted to be a lawyer because you really like CSI. Whatever the reason for starting, pro bono works lets you explore areas you might be interested in when you finish: it’s a low-risk opportunity to do a little self-exploration. 

While pro bono work won’t make you rich or pay your bills, it can certainly help you connect to the people and opportunities that will. On top of the personal benefits, pro bono work helps you connect with, engage, and serve your community. After all, isn’t that what the law is for?