Nathan Kennedy, Hall & Wilcox special counsel and director of pro bono and community, who is also the current secretary and former president of Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, joined Jerome Doraisamy on an episode of The Lawyers Weekly Show for a discussion of the benefits of pro bono work in the Australian legal sphere.
Here are some of the key points Nathan raises in the podcast:
Professional benefits and development opportunities
- Through pro bono work, junior lawyers gain hands-on experience. They can often run the matters themselves and engage with clients directly. These opportunities might not otherwise be available to junior lawyers at an early stage in their career when they are doing commercial work.
- Pro bono work helps junior lawyers develop their people skills – these skills then assist them with dealing with their commercial clients.
- By fulfilling the role of helping people, providing access to justice and upholding the rule of law in society, pro bono enhances the reputation of law firms and the legal profession.
Personal benefits of doing pro bono work
- “I think it is a real feeling of being able to help somebody.” Helping vulnerable people is often a way to help lawyers stay mentally healthy and it makes work more enjoyable. It gives lawyers great satisfaction to be able to help people who would not have otherwise have access to lawyers resolve their problems.
- For example, Nathan said that Hall & Wilcox have matters involving refugees trying to assess the legal system in a country that they are new to and in a language that they may not understand, and cases of elder abuse where people have treated their parents horrifically. “We have to help these people,” he says.
Advice on managing the possibility of vicarious trauma
- It is very important that people at law firms are open and approachable so that lawyers who are doing pro bono work feel free to discuss any psychological issues with their supervisors and colleagues.
- Lawyers should utilise the counselling services provided at law firms to deal with vicarious trauma.
Advice to young lawyers who would like to get involved in pro bono but worry about taking on even more work when they find themselves carrying an already heavy workload
- Pro bono work does serve to reenergise lawyers. However, it is important that lawyers make sure the work fits into their schedule. Generally, lawyers will feel more fulfilled in their work, rather than stressed out about it.
- It does not necessarily take up a lot of time. For example, the National Pro Bono Aspirational Target is doing at least 35 hours per lawyer per year. This translates to 45 minutes a week or less than 10 minutes a day.
- It is important that senior people at law firms are supportive of the pro bono work.
Listen to the full interview on The Lawyers Weekly Showpodcast here.