You already know that Baker Donelson lawyers love pro bono, but I'm here to tell you - our staff loves pro bono too! It is so easy, and so rewarding, to get law firm staff involved in pro bono work. Of course, they can do the same kinds of things on pro bono matters that they do on files for paying clients - the typical secretarial and paralegal work that has to be done in any legal matter. They can prepare documents, summarize depositions, help with trial preparation, just as they always do. But when it comes to pro bono, there are additional opportunities for staff that offer them the chance to get more directly involved. Linda Klein, office managing shareholder in our Atlanta office, recently wrote an article on the topic for Law Practice Management magazine. You can check it out here for all kinds of ideas.
One thing our staff members do in various Baker Donelson offices is volunteering at the homeless shelter clinics we coordinate with the Homeless Experience Legal Protection program, and at Project Homeless Connect events where we help with legal services. Staff members can help clients with intake questionnaires and with completing the paperwork we sometimes need in order to help them with things like disability benefits or obtaining a birth certificate or identification card.
In our Atlanta office, our staff is very excited about the Atlanta Legal Aid Cancer Legal Initiative. One day a week, several staff members devote time to talking on the phone with people who are suffering from cancer, HIV/AIDS, Lou Gehrig's disease, and other life threatening illnesses, and who also are in need of legal help. The staff members conduct intake interviews to find out what kinds of legal representation they need and ask the necessary questions about their eligiblity for Legal Aid assistance. I got a chance to talk recently with Mary Neidhardt and Pat Leake, both on our Atlanta staff, about the program, and what they told me brought tears to my eyes. Mary was so enthusiastic about having the opportunity for one on one contact with people in need, and it obviously had a great impact on her enthusiasm for her job overall. Pat also said that there are quite a few enthusiastic volunteers among the Atlanta office staff. At least once a week, she said, someone cries over what they've heard during these calls, and yet they can't wait to serve again - helping people is just that meaningful.
Getting people engaged in pro bono helps create a sense of community in a law firm - it only makes sense to find ways to engage staff as well as lawyers in that effort.