Recognizing Attorneys' Pro Bono Work Builds Business as Well as Goodwill

Virtue is its own reward. But even virtuous people value a pat on the back.

That's why giving recognition to attorneys in your firm who perform pro bono work is essential. Acknowledging them can sustain existing participation and inspire others to join the program. At the same time, that will earn your firm valuable goodwill that can distinguish it from the competition.

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So how do you encourage those who add value to the firm when taking on pro bono cases? And how do you encourage others in your firm to join them? The latest Super Lawyers Playbook, "Doing Good While Doing Well: A Road Map to Success with Pro Bono," explores several strategies law firms can use to accomplish those goals.

As the playbook notes, pro bono work is a form of volunteering that's unique to the law profession. Like any form of philanthropic endeavor, pro bono offers profound spiritual rewards as well as community benefits. Those rewards are powerful way to keep a firm's attorneys engaged in their legal work, pro bono and otherwise. According to UnitedHealth Group's 2013 Health and Volunteering Study, "People who volunteer report that they feel better emotionally, mentally and physically." Research from the University of Georgia Terry College of Business shows that employee volunteering is linked to greater workplace productivity and satisfaction.

To gain all of the benefits that pro bono work provides, your firm needs to actively encourage attorneys to pursue it. According to the Millennial Impact Report, "More than half of respondents said having their passions and talents recognized and addressed is their top reason for remaining at their current company."

It's not just millennials who value recognition, of course. When any employer gives employees shout-outs for good work (and good works), it sets the foundation for a pattern of positive performance in the future. And when employees perform well and contribute to business goals, this gives leadership more reason to provide loud and sustained applause for those employees' efforts.

There are numerous ways to recognize your attorneys' philanthropic legal work. "We do several things to recognize pro bono work," says Lawrence McDonough, pro bono counsel at Dorsey. "Internally, we hold annual summer celebrations in each of our offices recognizing extraordinary pro bono efforts. We also put ribbons on office doors for everyone who does at least 50 or 100 hours of pro bono work in a year. We regularly note on our intranet home page pro bono accomplishments. We also submit nominations for outside recognition with bar associations, courts, and nonprofit organizations involved with pro bono work."

The next couple of posts will tap the insights of the new Super Lawyers Playbook. We'll discuss the crucial importance of knowing the costs of pro bono work. We'll also look at how to determine the kinds of pro bono work it makes sense for your firm to pursue. When you skillfully manage your pro bono caseloads right, it turns out that virtue offers more than its own reward.