Why Do Pro Bono?
–Karen Frank ’14
Graduation is just around the corner and I feel very fortunate to have volunteered over 500 hours for different Pro Bono programs at the Charlotte School of Law. At our law school, efforts are made to engage students in a wide range of pro bono activities. This involvement was described to us as something that had extrinsic value. The extrinsic value being it: can look good on our resumes, law firms like when lawyers give back to their community, it shows that we are interested in others, the involvement can enhance our legal skills, improve our interpersonal skills, as well as the strengthening and broaden our legal skills. All of this is great when you are first told you “have to” complete pro bono hours to graduate.
What is often lacking in the basic information to new law students is the deep intrinsic value of law students being in a unique position to protect the defenseless and give back to the law. From whatever background we come to arrive at law school, the profession we are soon to join is by any measure an esteemed one. Given the wider benefits to the community that result from improving access to the legal system, it can be argued that the burden placed on law students is easily justified. Making your Pro Bono volunteer work part of your law school career will assist you to make it a habit and this is a habit that will follow you throughout your law career. Getting in the habit of Pro Bono work will enrich your life personally and professionally.
I appreciate that legal education demands a lot of students, often giving them little time to pursue other interests. However, I believe that it is of immense value, both personally and professionally for law students to engage in pro bono work. It can be a revitalizing experience, in which future lawyers are reminded of the potential, and the privilege, of their profession. Completing pro bono work wherever possible can be an invaluable source of experience and inspiration for law students like myself. Pro bono work is one of the best ways for law students to gain ‘real’ experience of the legal profession. It provides an opportunity for students to have face-to-face client contact long before this would usually be available to them in their undergraduate or even professional-qualification studies.
The pro bono opportunities that law schools offer their students, as well as those opportunities that law students can create for themselves at Charlotte School of Law is greater than most law schools. You have the potential to think about the economy and legal system within our city.
Finally, pro bono work, like other forms of community engagement, has the potential to provide a context and perspective to our own professional and personal lives that is sometimes difficult to grasp from our classrooms and libraries. This perspective, combined with the practical competitive advantages that a law student can acquire through their involvement, makes pro bono work a crucial addition to any legal education.
Other thoughts: from Richard ‘Gatlin’ Groberg ’15
Gatlin Groberg reported that the Mississippi Center for Justice Pro Bono service trip in Biloxi became a surprisingly humble experience for him personally. Not because of the work assigned to do but rather the people he got to meet and interact with throughout the entire trip. Richard stated, “Before attending the Mississippi trip I spent a day in New Orleans to experience all that “jazz,” and was enamored to find separate from the March Madness festivities and the alcohol at noon that there were lasting memories of Katrina.” The French Quarter had a museum that shocked the consciousness because as you walked in you are smacked in the face with a BOAT! This boat had saved 300 lives! It was powerful to see this because it was something you do not ordinarily see. In further exploring the French Quarters you can see old pictures of the Quarters and then you are awakened to the horrific levels of water that affected the city.
From Meghan Abernathy ’15
My public service experience has mainly consisted of my work clerking for a U.S. District Court Judge this past summer here in Charlotte. My clerkship mainly involved the writing of motions at different legal proceeding stages. I am excited to be a Charlotte School of Law Pro Bono Ambassador this year with the hopes of spreading my love for serving the underserved to my fellow students. In addition, I am looking forward to continuing to participate and get involved with some of the many Pro Bono opportunities available at Charlotte School of Law.
In closing, law students should be honored to be included in Pro Bono volunteer work and be grateful that we are able to attend law school and help others especially in an economy that is still suffering greatly. We get to help out and restructure lives during these historic times of recovery and we are proud and grateful to be amongst the individuals to volunteer.
Don’t Wait! Find your passion and ignite it through Pro Bono work!