What Kind of Pro Bono Should You Do?

You already know you want to use your legal degree for good - but what kind of pro bono cases are right for you?

What was your favorite 1L class?
Which book would you pick up at the library?
What kind of lawyering do you love?
Photo by Kaboompics.com
What is your favorite lawyer TV show?
Photo by Victor Hanacek
How much time do you have to contribute?
Consumer Debt Counseling
Outstanding consumer debt in the U.S. is over $4 trillion, and 80% of Americans carry some level of debt - credit card, medical, student loans, or mortgages. The legacy of the Recession still has a lot of people struggling, and if they got sued in civil court they might not even know about it - poorly regulated debt collection practices led to a lot of abuse. The good thing is that even a brief consultation with an attorney can equip people with the tools to fight or settle consumer debt lawsuits in court. In New York, the CLARO program has a streamlined training and clinic hours, but many other jurisdictions operate similar programs - just contact your county bar association and ask.
Domestic Violence Advocacy
Not surprisingly, many women fleeing domestic violence are unable to afford an attorney. Most jurisdictions have programs where you can volunteer your time to help survivors obtain protective orders and provide counseling on related family law issues. These cases are sensitive - before you sign up, check out Trauma-Informed and Victim-Centered Lawyering in Domestic Violence Cases and Beyond.
Volunteer Lawyers for Arts

Maybe you have an artistic side that you’ve bent towards lawyering, or maybe you are a total contract geek with a musician cousin - you know that a lot of artists can’t afford help with the paperwork to help them protect their Intellectual Property rights, form business entities, or apply for arts-related visas. Enter volunteer lawyers for the arts! VLA programs in many jurisdictions, including New York, Cincinnati, Chicago, Philadelphia and more will provide an orientation and pair you with eligible artists.

Immigration Defense

Unlike defendants in criminal court, people facing removal from the United States have no right to an attorney. This means most people in immigration proceedings - including children - end up representing themselves. With processing delays at crisis levels, having an attorney can be the difference between being held at a detention center or being released, or being able to navigate the complex asylum process with limited English. Luckily there are many organizations training and deploying volunteer lawyers, both at home and at the border.