Why would someone who can command hundreds of dollars an hour give his or her work away? Well, if you've ever volunteered, you understand the deep feeling of well-being that can come from helping someone else. You may also understand what it's like to have a sense of personal, philosophical or spiritual obligation to help the less fortunate. Many practitioners are initially drawn to law out of a deep sense of social justice.
Volunteering can provide valuable training for attorneys. Some volunteer law groups offer workshops and professional development for their members [source: VLA of Massachusetts]. A lawyer contemplating a switch to entertainment law, for example, can volunteer for a few arts groups to discover whether it is indeed a valid career option.
Some professional development opportunities begin even before an attorney has passed the bar. Some VLA groups work with law schools to provide hands-on case training for third-year law students. In Atlanta, for example, these students help victims of domestic violence [source: AVLF]. Students work side by side with practicing attorneys, become familiar with the local judicial system and help clients who are in perhaps the most difficult circumstances of their lives. The experience helps make the students better lawyers and strengthens their commitment to their communities.
In the case of VLA groups, many lawyers are passionate supporters of the arts. Offering professional assistance gives them a chance to become more intimately and directly involved with their arts community. The same opportunity draws thousands of CPAs to offer pro bono accounting services and business executives to offer management consulting via groups such as the Executive Service Corps [sources: Clearinghouse for Volunteer Accounting Services, ESCAN]. Volunteers may forge lasting ties with the nonprofits they serve, going on to become board members or donors.
Even if you don't qualify for pro bono legal assistance, most volunteer law groups provide referrals, many of which take income into consideration. The bottom line? If you need legal help, you can get it.
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