Six Steps to Launching a Pro Bono Initiative at Your Law Firm
Notwithstanding the moral obligation to perform community service, the benefits of launching a pro bono initiative within your law firm can also provide incredible business development opportunities. Consider that pro bono work affords young associates the opportunity to hone their skills and meet members of the local community (outside of legal networking events). This elevates their visibility and gives them additional hands-on legal experience—both of which can only help your firm.
Further, taking on pro bono matters will often expose your team to underserved populations and/or communities who otherwise may never have access to a law firm and its legal services. Pro bono work differentiates law firms who choose to engage in this type of work from those that don’t, which can make all the difference in the world when it comes to referrals from other attorneys—particularly those who serve as in-house counsel for organizations, corporations or associations.
If you haven’t formally launched a pro bono initiative at your law firm, here are six steps to follow for success:
- Identify Attorney Availability
When deciding to take on a pro bono case, make sure you look at the calendar to identify the best time during the year to do so. Consider your attorney availability and block off time frames that will allow for the hours and manpower required for a pro bono project.
- Invite Your Attorneys into the Decision-Making Process
Ask your attorneys about causes that matter to them. Ask what types of cases they would like to work on, to determine the projects that fit your firm’s passion. You may also consider the number of individuals that can be helped through different types of cases. Are you looking to make a big difference for one individual, or is it more important to you that your work impacts a significant number of people? Ask for feedback from your attorneys to ensure that your team is excited and enthusiastic about the engagement.
- Seek Out Partners
You’ll need to work with a non-profit in nearly all cases, so it’s important that you find one that is easy to work with, that has resources to set up a pro bono clinic and that has access to the types of clients/cases your firm will be seeking to represent. Likewise, identify other potential partners (politicians, local businesses, community leaders, etc.) who may be helpful in gaining support of the project or may otherwise become allies in your firm’s fight for justice.
- Develop a PR Plan
Engaging in pro bono work is a noble endeavor, which is why it plays well with the press. Together with your non-profit partner and your public relations agency or in-house marketing team, craft a PR plan around the case(s). Determine what is newsworthy about the case, why it matters and why your firm decided to take on this case.
- Listen for Additional Opportunities to Develop Relationships
While engaged in the pro bono project, be sure you’re listening for other opportunities that may coincide with your work. There will be additional organizations, individuals or associations brought into the fold, who may prove to be valuable leads for new business as well. Remember to keep your firm’s business development goals in mind while working on the case.
- Measure Your Firm’s ROI
How many relationships are created or strengthened through the pro bono work? Does it hold enough value to positively impact attorney retention? Did the case positively affect your company culture? Did it help your firm to achieve its mission, and/or help reinforce your firm’s value statement? Did your firm receive favorable media coverage as the result of your work on the project? All of these potential outcomes come affixed with their own return on your investment, so be sure to calculate them as best you can.
From attracting skilled attorneys looking for a new law firm, to generating buzz in the media and opening doors to additional referral sources, pro bono work can elevate your firm’s reputation, thus bringing in new business—all while you’re helping others.