Reflections on the Benefits of Pro Bono Service


I’ve always felt called to participate in pro bono legal service projects over the past 30 years, and I’ve been privileged to work in law firms that value pro bono time.  This past year I’ve had an opportunity to oversee pro bono efforts in a 200-lawyer and now 550-lawyer law firm.  As the co-chair of pro bono services for Maynard Nexsen, I’d like to share some observations regarding how robust pro bono programs positively impact underserved populations and participating law firms and lawyers.

  1. Enhancing the firm's reputation: Engaging in pro bono work demonstrates the firm's commitment to social responsibility and serving the community. It can enhance the firm's reputation among clients and the general public as a socially conscious and ethical organization. This positive perception can increase brand recognition and a favorable reputation, which may attract new clients and opportunities.  Pro bono service can help individual attorneys build their brands as well.

  2. Developing and retaining talent: Pro bono work provides valuable opportunities for lawyers to develop their skills, gain practical experience, and expand their legal knowledge. It allows them to work on diverse cases and challenges they may not encounter in their regular practice. This professional growth can attract and retain talented lawyers who value the opportunity to make a meaningful impact through their legal expertise.  In any age where ‘outside the box’ issue spotting, ‘connecting the dots,’ industry experience, and creative solutions are perhaps the most valued skills of the legal profession, a diversity of experiences creates better lawyers.

  3. Networking and building relationships: Pro bono work often involves collaborating with other lawyers, nonprofits, community organizations, and government agencies. These partnerships can lead to valuable networking opportunities, allowing law firms to connect with influential individuals and organizations in the legal and social sectors. Building these relationships can lead to referrals, partnerships on other projects, and even new business opportunities.

  4. Strengthening client relationships: Pro bono work can deepen existing client relationships or help establish new ones. Law firms engaging in pro bono service demonstrate their commitment to serving the broader community and addressing social issues. This commitment can resonate with clients who value corporate social responsibility, and it may lead to stronger loyalty and long-term relationships with these clients.

  5. Fostering employee engagement and morale: Participating in pro bono work can boost employee morale and job satisfaction within a law firm. Lawyers and other staff members often find it rewarding to use their skills to help those who cannot afford legal representation. Group projects, in particular – an estate planning clinic, for instance – provide experiences among lawyers who might not otherwise interact with each other.

  6. Meeting professional responsibility obligations: Many jurisdictions have rules and guidelines that encourage or require lawyers to provide pro bono legal services. By actively engaging in pro bono work, law firms fulfill their professional responsibility obligations and contribute to the legal profession's commitment to promoting access to justice and serving the public interest.

While pro bono work may involve dedicating time and resources without direct financial gain, the aforementioned positive impacts can bring long-term benefits to law firms by enhancing their reputation, attracting and retaining talent, building relationships, strengthening client loyalty, fostering employee engagement, and fulfilling certain responsibilities of our profession.

About Maynard Nexsen

Maynard Nexsen is a full-service law firm with more than 550 attorneys in 24 offices from coast to coast across the United States. Maynard Nexsen formed in 2023 when two successful, client-centered firms combined to form a powerful national team. Maynard Nexsen’s list of clients spans a wide range of industry sectors and includes both public and private companies. 

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