North Carolina Rule of Professional Conduct 6.1 encourages each North Carolina attorney to provide at least 50 hours of pro bono legal service each year. However, from the new attorney who may be apprehensive about signing up for a pro bono opportunity to the veteran practitioner who can’t find the time to volunteer, there are valid reasons that lawyers may not prioritize meeting Rule 6.1’s aspirational goal. Nevertheless, there are some equally great reasons to prioritize pro bono legal service as part of your law practice:
1. Clients Need Our Help! Every year, roughly 80% of the civil legal needs of the poor in North Carolina go unmet. These needs, such as addressing housing habitability violations, protecting victims of domestic violence, ensuring access to health care or combating wage theft, may seem less pressing than those in the criminal courts, but to a person living in poverty, legal redress can mean avoiding homelessness, violence or even death.
2. Service Provides Professional Development! While addressing unmet legal needs in our state, participating in pro bono legal service also benefits you as a practitioner. Whether expanding your professional network by volunteering at a legal clinic or building your competency in new areas of law, volunteering can help you become a better lawyer.
3. There Are Opportunities for Recognition! A lawyer who reports at least 50 hours of pro bono legal service in a given calendar year will be inducted into the NC Pro Bono Honor Society and receive a certificate from the Supreme Court of North Carolina recognizing that achievement.
4. It Feels Good to Give Back! As North Carolina attorneys, volunteering is a way to invest in our own communities in a way that we are uniquely suited to provide. Whether seeing firsthand the difference you made in a client’s life or feeling as though you made a true impact in protecting another’s legal rights, pro bono legal service is incredibly rewarding.
5. Volunteering Is Easy! Finding a pro bono opportunity is as simple as viewing the opportunities posted on this website. You will find a variety of pro bono legal service opportunities in numerous areas of law, geographic areas and types of activity, all searchable to make it easy to find a project that is the perfect fit for you.
Pro bono work is important because there are so many unmet legal needs in our state today, and we as lawyers have the specialized skills to address those needs.
Everyone deserves a good attorney no matter their economic status; pro bono service ensures that this balance is created.
Opportunities abound for our helping with the unmet legal needs in our state, whether in the urban, suburban or rural areas – and especially in response to disasters like Hurricane Matthew.
After spending most of the week working on business-to-business issues, pro bono work reminds us that there is a personal element to our work.