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I was wondering if some of you biglaw folks could talk about your experience and the ease of doing pro bono work while an actual associate. During my 2L summer, I got to do some pro bono work, and I'd like to do more as an associate when practically feasible, but I want to make sure I don't run too far with "pro bono counts the same as billables" and other pro bono rhetoric. Could some of you detail the types of pro bono projects you've found most rewarding and best practices when approaching pro bono work at a biglaw firm? For what it's worth, I'll be going to a V5 firm.
Doesn’t your firm have a pro bono coordinator or an of counsel who handles your office’s pro bono matters? I’d start by talking with them about what is available. Beyond that, anything that gives you practical experience will be at least a marginal benefit, especially if you’re otherwise a litigator. Writing, motion practice, oral advocacy, and case management will be valuable experience. And of course it’s also important you find the type of pro bono that you have some passion for, whether that’s veteran claims, immigration, court-appointed for pro se clients, or whatever else lights a fire for you.
Definitely look for opportunities for smaller matters where you are the sole attorney. It is terrifying, but gives you a heck of a lot more immediate, on the ground experience as a first or second year attorney. As UVA said, talk to your pro bono coordinator. Also talk to those a year or two above you. My firm counts 100% of pro bono towards billables, and they mean it and push everyone to take on as much pro bono as they can handle. No one will bat an eye if you bill 250-300 pro bono hours in a year, as long as you are getting your chargeable work done.
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