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“We want people to do pro bono work they’re really passionate about”

July 2022: "As lawyers, I believe we are privileged to stand before courts and use our legal skills to advocate for our clients. It's clear to me that the legal community also has an obligation to ensure that the legal system from which we benefit is accessible to everyone, including those who might not otherwise be able to pay for legal services" says New York associate Michelle Letourneau-Belock. "For me, pro bono is a direct connection to why I wanted to be a lawyer in the first place."

"Pro Bono at White & Case is structured and managed professionally, just like our commercial practice groups," says Patrick Rickerfor, Senior Manager of White & Case's Global Pro Bono Practice. "What sets us apart is the deep base of pro bono clients that we've been working with for years, across all of the areas of the access-to-justice spectrum: from women's rights to gay rights to gun-safety matters, from small-scale one-on-one work with individuals to large, global projects with the UN."

Matching lawyers with work that matters to them

Patrick adds that all lawyers are encouraged to follow their interests when it comes to pro bono work: "When an associate comes to me and says, I want to do work in a specific area, I usually can point them to an existing Firm pro bono project. Alternatively, if we don't have a foot in the door with that specific issue, I can locate a non-profit or referral organization to match with their interest. And we allow people to bring in pro bono matters too, consistent with conflicts checks and our pro bono policy. We want people to do pro bono work they're really passionate about."

Apart from the element of personal fulfilment, Chicago associate Kevin Gomez points out that pro bono work enables ambitious lawyers to develop new skills and build up their experience.

He recalls working on pro bono matters during his first experience at the Firm: "As a summer associate, I worked on drafting policies and bylaws for a non-profit. A year later, I was sitting for the Bar exam and I had a question about drafting bylaws for corporations, which I could answer well, because I'd actually done the work. It was a real lightbulb moment for me, a realization that you can apply the skills you get from pro bono matters to every facet of your work."

Long- or short-term opportunities

As an associate, Kevin also did a five-month secondment to Her Justice, where he worked full time with survivors of domestic violence. "As a junior attorney, you don't necessarily expect to have much client interaction, but during my secondment, I was working directly with clients one-on-one, including representing them in court. As well as being extremely rewarding, it really sharpened my people skills and boosted my confidence too."

Whether you have a few hours to spare or want to take on a significant role on a pro bono case, Patrick says that the Firm has pro bono opportunities to suit. "There are discrete pieces of work—such as working with a transgender person to do a name change matter in court—that might just require a few hours of work, or lawyers can get involved on a longer-term basis on class action lawsuits or death penalty cases, for example."

Opportunities for growth and early responsibility

Michelle adds that working on a pro bono matter as a junior associate opens the door to taking on significant responsibility and ownership. "I'm now helping to manage our case against the Virginia Department of Corrections for its use of long-term solitary confinement. Given we are seeking class certification in this case, the team includes many White & Case lawyers and legal staff of all levels, all contributing in important ways."

"Every lawyer is invited to get involved"

Finally, Patrick explains how pro bono work is viewed within the Firm. "Pro bono is a key element of our Global Citizenship initiative and is one of the ways that we deliver on our values: united, pioneering and human. We treat pro bono work like any other White & Case matter, with hands-on partner supervision, and every lawyer is invited to get involved, build their legal skills, and experience the satisfaction of making an impact on a pro bono case."