Recognizing Attorneys' Pro Bono Work Builds Business as Well as Goodwill
From the Vault -- Gerry Spence, "The Storyteller"
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.
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.
June Editorial Showcases Both the Young and Tenured
We were honored to sit down with Gerry Spence for the cover story of the 2010 issue of Mountain States Super Lawyers magazine. The legendary trial lawyer discussed everything from education to why he choose to focus on representing the marginalized. An excerpt:
When I first went into the law, if you were an important lawyer you represented an insurance company. That was proof that you had made it. I can remember how proud I was when I went rushing home to tell my wife that I'd been hired by an insurance company.
Then, as I matured, I began to see what was really going on in the legal system. I saw the power of money, and the power of insurance companies, and poor people that couldn't get representation; and poor people who, if they could get representation, were represented by lawyers who couldn't afford to take the case and deal with it in a correct fashion. And if you are sensitive to and become educated from your experience, there comes a time when either you respond to that or you become calloused against it. And it just so happens that I grew up with poor people so I recognized the helplessness of ordinary people against the power structure. And there came a time when I couldn't represent the power structure anymore.
Read the rest of the Spence Q&A in the full feature article on SuperLawyers.com. And be sure to check out the latest edition of Mountain States Super Lawyers Magazine here.
Super Lawyers selectees are a diverse group of attorneys working for their communities in ways that inspire others, encourage participation in the law and advocate for justice no matter the client. Here are a few of their stories.
2017 Florida Super Lawyers Magazine
Eugene Pettis is one of seven children from what was once referred to as the "colored side" of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He grew up with hand-me-down shoes filled with cardboard to cover the holes and a speech impediment, but that didn't stop him from graduating law school or serving as the first black president of the Florida Bar Association.
Pettis takes pride in helping underserved members of the community and has been working for others ever since starting the Horizon Club, his high school's first inclusive service club. He is seen by colleagues as a dogged and hard working attorney. He has spent the majority of his career in personal injury and medical malpractice defense and has also served on the South Florida Water Management District's governing board.
He is currently a partner and the co-founder of Haliczer Pettis & Schwarm. He has been a Super Lawyers list selectee for eleven years in a row and elected Top 100 Miami three of those years.
2017 California Super Lawyers Magazine - Rising Stars
Jessie Kornberg wasn't destined to be an attorney. It turns out that in college she was looking for a way to best serve underprivileged communities. Her answer was a law degree that eventually led her to her current position as president and CEO of Bet Tzedek. In her time leading the advocacy group, Kornberg has helped secure financial backing and rolled out new initiatives to help low income families and individuals who have trouble understanding complicated tax structures that exist in areas like disability benefits.
Kornberg was born and raised in New York, the child of an architect and a poet. She graduated from Columbia Law where she was studying when the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 affected her view of the world and helped shape her into the advocate she is today. During her time in law school at UCLA she went to New Orleans with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund to help victims of Hurricane Katrina.
She currently manages a budget of $8 million in cash and about $15 million in services while reporting to a board of 55 members. Even with all this responsibility she is "so inspired by the energy and ferocity [with which] my staff is responding" to the problems poor L.A. residents.
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