Lawyers ought to consider developing a strategic approach to their pro bono services.
Rural and small city lawyers do a great deal of pro bono – maybe not Rule 6.1 pro bono, but some form of donated service. Many new lawyers fall into the trap: they haven’t developed a business plan that allows them to follow their passions. Many new lawyers take on a significant number of pro bono cases without thinking about their revenue stream. For our part, we pro bono folks pounce on newly-admitted lawyers.
But lawyers, new and seasoned, should feel good about the pro bono they want to do. They need to view pro bono as a law practice management issue. Every lawyer ought to plan for a specific number and type of pro bono cases they will handle in a given year. They need to articulate that goal to their office staff and to their local legal aid or pro bono program.
Further, instead of investing resources in interviewing potential pro bono clients, the lawyer ought to develop a relationship with the local legal aid program, a relationship in which the lawyer tells potential clients, “I accept all my pro bono thru legal aid. Please have them interview you and refer you back to me.” In this scenario, the lawyer feels good that he has a plan that he can articulate, he knows that the legal aid office knows the kinds of, and number of, cases to send to his office, and a potential client (paying or pro bono) sees the lawyer as supportive of pro bono. The relationship between the legal aid office, the lawyer and the potential client creates transparency and lends order to the pro bono intake process.