Occasionally, we are presented with an opportunity to put our talents and skills to work for the greater good. As lawyers, we have studied and trained and gained a special skill set that is valuable to more than just our clients or organization. While these opportunities may seem futile since they are usually done for little or no money (aka "pro bono work"), they often benefit us in more ways than we are willing to admit.
For starters, pro bono work allows us to expand our horizons and gain experience in new areas. If you are an M&A lawyer, there is a very good chance you never see the inside of a courtroom, but you might be inclined to take a pro bono case that will get you into a courtroom to help someone in need. Junior attorneys who take on pro bono work may for the first time lead their own case—from start to finish— without having to work directly with a partner. Though these examples focus on law firm attorneys, pro bono work can be taken on by those working in an in-house legal department as well.
It also keeps you grounded in the real world. In most cases, you are working with clients who are unable to afford our standard fees. The reasons vary but since you are being exposed to a different clientele, you are also gaining perspective and being reminded that not everyone is in the same business world you are in every day.
You find things you have interest in outside what you do day in and day out. Part of any pro bono opportunity is tying it to something you are passionate about outside the law and then expanding on it beyond the law while still using those legal skills.
With pro bono work, you make connections you would not have made in any other way. You're getting the opportunity to grow your network and meeting new people who may have similar interests as you, especially if you're working with a cause that you are passionate about. That commonality will help you build stronger relationships.
It's also good for business. Now that you have made new connections—connections that have similar interests—chances are they will remember you when they need your services in the future. People that care about the same causes are likely to seek you out, especially because people like to work with people who are seen doing good. They may even tell their friends or colleagues thus creating new business opportunities.
Bottom line, pro bono work makes you feel good—and it's good for you. Research has shown that helping others makes us happier. And when you help a cause that matters to you, how can you go wrong?
For example, we were recently presented with the opportunity to help the U.S. Humane Society fill their General Counsel opening. We're animal lovers; we're recruiters—this just felt like a natural match. This search has given us an opportunity to benefit from all of the points we listed above. From time to time, we like to do our part for the greater good, too. So even though legal recruiting may not seem like a skill that will come in handy outside of a law firm or corporate legal department, sometimes the right opportunity finds you and gives you a chance to share your gifts and do something benevolent.
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Andrea Bricca is a Partner for Major, Lindsey & Africa and focuses on the recruitment of attorneys for in-house roles in the U.S. Southwestern and Mountain Regions. Currently located in Las Vegas, Nevada, she has developed additional expertise in talent acquisition for the gaming, gaming technology and hospitalities industries.
Deb Ben-Canaan is a Partner at Major, Lindsey & Africa and the Head of the Washington, DC In-House Practice Group. She is one of the firm's most experienced recruiters, placing attorneys nationwide with corporate legal departments at all levels and across all industries.