Celebrating Pro Bono Week
6.1 Reasons to do Pro Bono:
In honor of the American Bar Association’s Pro Bono Celebration Week, the West Virginia State Bar and Legal Aid of West Virginia are highlighting some of the reasons why attorneys donate their time.
Rule 6.1 of the West Virginia Rules of Professional Responsibility guides attorneys on how to fulfill their professional responsibility to engage in pro bono, so we’ll be sharing 6.1 more reasons you should do it too!
Reason 1: To Provide Access to Justice
“I was taught long ago, and firmly believe, that service is the rent we all pay for the privilege of living. I try to apply that principal, not only as an individual person, but particularly as a lawyer. Because of our unique knowledge, skill, and experience, we can provide advice, assistance, and services that most other people cannot. We have a moral, ethical, and professional obligation to do so. We can and should provide assistance and free legal services to individuals and families of limited means. We can and should serve on charitable, civic, community, religious and educational boards and organizations, and provide them with counsel and free legal service when we can. We can and should provide our time and financial support to organizations that support and/or directly provide access to justice and legal services to those in need.”
-Tom Scarr, President of WV State Bar and Member, Jenkins Fenstermaker, PLLC
Reason 2: To Improve The Public’s Understanding of the Law
“A lack of understanding of the legal system can be a significant barrier at the federal level. Providing pro bono legal services not only improves public perception of the legal profession, but also helps the courts operate more efficiently as well as effectively and provides meaningful access to justice.”
-Hon. Gina M. Groh, Chief United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia.
Reason 3: To Build a Stronger Community
“After working for 30 years in various states in corporate law, I retired in 2004 and decided that I needed to pay back the privilege I received being licensed as an attorney to those in my community. I have found that working with Legal Aid of West Virginia has helped build a stronger community in West Virginia. Aiding people who need advice and may not be able to afford it in my area builds trust not only with the people whom I advise but with those involved in providing the setting where they can come to meet and get advice. This does strengthen our community at its roots and thus raises trust in the community that each individual is important and has needs even if they are not able always to afford getting help and support.
Helping senior citizens and others, who also need to plan for end-of-life arrangements, does raise people’s trust and support of their community. They can make plans that give them hope that their family and friends will receive support when they pass on.”
-William Saviers, Volunteer Attorney, Legal Aid of WV
Reason 4: To Gain Skills and Experience
“The pro bono work I have been able to be do with Legal Aid of West Virginia has been invaluable to my development as a future lawyer in West Virginia. The need for legal representation is tremendous and pro bono work has allowed me to have hands-on experience with individuals and communities that might not otherwise have access to legal representation. Pro bono work has single handedly been the most rewarding aspect of my legal education and trajectory thus far because it has provided me with a tangible way to give back to those in need.”
-Carrie Miller, WVU Law Class of 2023
Reason 5: To Feel Good about Helping
“I first participated in our bar’s pro bono program shortly after being sworn-in to practice in 1991 and quickly learned that our program was both beneficial to the general public—as well as the participating lawyer—likely more so the latter. The law is complex. Thus, its regulation by state bars and the various courts throughout the land. And we reference our careers as ‘practice’ throughout for the reason that we lawyers are always learning more about the ever-evolving law regardless of particular topic. For the general public; it is downright daunting to interpret even the simplest situational application of the law. I have been honored to participate by helping pro bono clients to the best of my ability on a wide array of inevitably interesting inquiries – learning with each new client contact and feeling better for having helped clarify applicability and/or application of a given area of the law. It is a fantastic program for both client and lawyer and doing good feels good.”
–Michael Basile, Managing Member Spilman Thomas & Battle
Reason 6: To Present a Positive View of the Legal Profession
“This program (WV Free Legal Answers), in addition to providing a service to individuals as set forth in our professional codes of conduct, is an opportunity to present a positive view of our profession in today’s environment. Participation is purely at convenience in the selection of questions as well as access to numerous resources. Another advantage is the CLE credit.”
–M. Jane Glauser, Of Counsel, Shrader Companion Duff & Law
Reason 6.1: To Fulfill Your Professional Responsibility
West Virginia Rule of Professional Conduct 6.1 encourages attorneys to provide bono services each year without fee or expectation of fee to those who are unable to pay.
Get Started with WV Pro Bono Opportunities
To Volunteer with Legal Aid of WV, fill out the form at the bottom of this page.
To Volunteer with the WV State Bar’s Tuesday Legal Connect, Contact Cindy Withrow at 304-343-3013, ext. 2182.
Sign up to work with the WV State Bar’s WV Free Legal Answers here.