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Graphic: SF Non-Litigation Panel

2022 Summer Forum: Pro Bono Opportunities Outside the Courtroom

By Kelly Panlaqui

On June 9, 2022, we hosted the first of the 2022 Summer Forum panels – Non-Litigation Pro Bono Opportunities.  Susie Hoffman, Public Service Partner at Crowell & Moring moderated the discussion between panelists

  • Nancy Anderson, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
  • Jim Joseph, Arnold & Porter
  • Darryl Maxwell, D. C. Bar Pro Bono Center
  • Sara Outterson, Center for Reproductive Rights

There are all sorts of pro bono opportunities that do not involve litigation, and our panel highlighted a few of the most pressing needs. Although they each had varied career paths to their chosen work, a common theme among the panelists is the role volunteer work played in leading them to their passion.

Our panelists went on to share details of their career trajectory to illustrate the many ways you can shape a public-interest career or incorporate pro bono into your practice. Darryl Maxwell always had the desire to help people and started out as a litigator because he thought it was the only way to do public interest work. The other panelists had similar thoughts at the beginning of their careers. Collectively they agreed that litigation was not the right path for them and shared how different pro bono volunteer experiences set them on their paths to career fulfillment. Pro bono work can be a vital piece of a career trajectory- both in connections and figuring out what you love.

Pro bono work can be a great way to figure out what you want from your career, give back to your community, and fulfill your obligations as a lawyer. It is also a great way early in your career to build a professional network, enhance your skills, and gain experience in the community. You don’t need to be a subject-matter expert either. There are mentors and resources available to help you navigate a case.

Some areas of the greatest need are ones you’re hearing about on the news right now. Nancy Anderson told us about the work the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is doing fighting for equal rights and their pro bono opportunities in election protection and research in a variety of areas. Sara Outterson detailed the reproductive rights work the Center for Reproductive Rights is undertaking in the wake of a slate of restrictive laws, and how pro bono lawyers are vital to their work. Jim Joseph talked about the work Arnold & Porter has done for workers during the pandemic and their ongoing support of legal services organizations. As our moderator, Susie Hoffman aptly stated, “staffing pro bono projects is like playing wack-a-mole as something is always popping up.” That is why pro bono volunteers are so vital in responding to the ever-changing and pressing legal needs of our community. There are certainly challenges and the pandemic brought up additional challenges. But the law firm pro bono coordinators and legal service providers are well-equipped and stand ready to help you find the pro bono cases that will let you make a difference for your neighbors.

Pro bono work is a unique opportunity to tackle important issues of the day such as racial inequality, civil rights, police reform, gun violence, election protection, reproductive rights, and more. Below are links to the volunteer opportunities our panelists shared. As our panelists stated,  litigation is not always the most effective way to create change and the serendipity of a career is that it’s not always a straight shot. Start strategizing now and find ways to keep the friends/mentors you make along the way. And the final piece of advice – take full advantage of every opportunity. You never know where it might lead.

Additional Resources

Kelly Panlaqui is the Washington Council of Lawyers 2022 Summer Intern.

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