Law as Life, Part Four
I may work for The Man, but I can still be a good person.
My firm, like many larger law firms, strongly encourages pro bono work. I've had a hard time attracting billable work (ahh, first-year life) so I'm jumping on the pro bono bandwagon. I've already been to one training session (to aid foreign women with their immigration petitions under VAWA) and today I'm going to another (to help families process their adoptions). This is the best of all possible worlds for me: real client contact, real work experience, thin staffing (basically, me and a supervisor if I have tough questions), helping make someone's life better and STILL getting paid. And there are a fair number of people in the firm who do this regularly. To me, it's just cool that a big, rich law firm is willing to give up big chunks of its resources to help disadvantaged people. Go my firm!
Even though law schools also try to give students real work experience with things like legal aid clinics, my experience this time is vastly different. The people in charge of the pro bono work on the firm side are responsive, efficient and helpful. If I have a question, I get a prompt response to my phone call or email. I'm given explicit and detailed instructions from the start on what I'm expected to do and reassured that questions will be answered (which, as I just mentioned, they are). When I worked at my law school's legal aid clinic, my experience was completely different. It was poorly run, my supervising attorneys, if they were ever around, always had more important things to do than answer my questions and often didn't even know how to answer them. They didn't respond to emails or voicemails. After just two quarters I got fed up and quit. It wasn't worth the frustration (on top of this, at my year-end review they blamed ME for not logging enough clinical hours, when I had been telling them I didn't have enough work and they never responded to my requests and questions). On the flip side, my firm's pro bono contacts have already set me up with clients who need help.
To me, it's an interesting dichotomy and yet another illustration of why, although I miss student life for many reasons, I like my firm better than my law school.