Little incentive, even less opportunity

MANY YOUNG lawyers attracted to large City firms by the financial incentives want to maintain their ideological commitments to avoid “selling out”. Aware of this, large firms advertise their pro bono work as part of their recruitment and marketing drives.
But, while many young lawyers, like myself arrive at large City law firms as trainees with visions of getting involved in pro bono, in reality it hardly exists.
One of the things that drew me to my firm was the fact that it had won an award for its pro bono activities. But once I started working here, I found little evidence of its pro bono commitments.
While a few scattered partners are committed to extremely worthwhile and active pro bono projects, the majority have little or no interest in anything that resembles non-billable work.
My firm sets billing targets for its lawyers, but there is no policy or overall encouragement to get involved in pro bono work.
Frustrated by the lack of opportunities within my firm, I looked to get involved with some external legal human rights groups.
While at first I was encouraged by the availability of work with these groups, I soon found myself going to committee meeting after committee meeting without really accomplishing anything.
I was doing all of this work in my own time and getting little thanks for it – or personal satisfaction.
The most disheartening thing about my involvement with these groups was seeing other young lawyers arrive at meetings full of enthusiasm, but then leave without getting involved – either because they felt, like me, that they were not going to accomplish anything, or they were afraid of the time-consuming administrative tasks they would be asked to complete.
If firms took an overall approach to allocating pro bono work among their trainees and fee earners, and provided them with the administrative resources they require, there would be far more opportunities for groups to get involved in this type of work.