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Economic Crisis Brings Pro Bono To Crossroads

Publication Date: 
May 18, 2009
The National Law Journal - Legal Tech on Demand

Professor Deborah L. Rhode is quoted in The National Law Journal in a story about the inaugural Building a Better Legal Profession (BBLP) Student Leadership Conference held at Stanford Law School April 4. Students from BBLP as well as personalities from academia and the legal community participated in a roundtable discussion regarding the state of pro bono representation:

RHODE: You already are busy people, and you will find that finding time to do pro bono work and, even more, to create institutional change that will make it possible, is a time-consuming proposition. It's hard, and in a profession where we've seen an escalation of billable hours over the last couple decades, what hasn't changed is the number of hours in a day. It's hard to carve out that kind of time for the hard work of institutional change, but it's enormously important that you make that time, and that work on issues of social justice and fairness is not just essential for our profession; it's also one of the most fulfilling things you can do with your life.

Still, less than half of this nation's law students graduate with a pro bono experience, let alone a well-supervised one. I'm reminded of the importance of this when I think back at my experience at Yale....At that time, there was no pro bono program at all, and there were, however, some clinics, and my best experience and, in fact, the experience that kept me in law school was working in a poverty law office.

I will tell you once again that money has done a lot of good things for me in my life, but there's nothing more satisfying than being able to send a message with your own resources. So if we want lawyers to take professional responsibility seriously, then we all have a personal responsibility to model it in our conduct and our priorities.