“Lawyers have a license to practice law, a monopoly on certain services. But for that privilege and status, lawyers have an obligation to provide legal services to those without the wherewithal to pay, to respond to needs outside themselves, to help repair tears in their communities.”
– U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (March 2014)
One of the most important things in my professional career is the pro bono work I do for my community. It is my way of being a productive member of society and a way to ensure that my children grow up in a place they can feel safe and be proud of. While at times I leave in tears (often after representing a young child who has been removed from his or her parents for various horrible scenarios), my soul always feels nourished, and for this I encourage other attorneys to participate in pro bono opportunities.
Pro bono publico is a Latin phrase meaning “for the public good.” Often shortened to pro bono, this means professional work undertaken voluntarily and without payment.
Each state treats pro bono work and requirements to do such work differently. In Nevada, Rule 6.1 of the Rules of Professional Conduct, states that each lawyer has a “professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay.” A lawyer should strive to provide at least 20 hours of pro bono services a year.
“True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.”
– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1955)
How to Get Involved with Pro Bono Work in Nevada
There are many opportunities to provide pro bono services. Some attorneys take a case pro bono and other attorneys donate their time to various organizations that provide pro bono services. The Nevada State Bar provides information on some organizations that provide services to those who cannot afford representation. Those include:
Volunteer Attorneys for Rural Nevadans (VARN)
904 N. Nevada St.
Carson City, Nevada 89703
Washoe Legal Services
299 S. Arlington Ave.
Reno, Nevada 89501
Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada
725 E. Charleston Blvd.
Las Vegas, Nevada 89104
Southern Nevada Senior Law Program
530 Las Vegas Blvd, South, Suite 310
Las Vegas, Nevada 89101
Website: Southern Nevada Senior Law Program
(Las Vegas Office)
530 S. Sixth St.
Las Vegas NV 89101
702.386.0404, ext. 140
204 Marsh Ave. Ste. 101
Reno NV 89509
775.284.3491 ext. 218
Currently, I participate in the Children’s’ Attorney Project through the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada. As part of the program, I represent children that have been removed from their homes and are in the foster care system. These children, ranging from newborn to 18 years old, deserve and have the right to have their voices heard in court, but they need an advocate for that. I have participated in the program for several years and have found it to be extremely rewarding. It is a practice area that is completely different from my day-to-day practice, so I feel that I am learning and experiencing something different while providing a voice to those most vulnerable in our community – our children.
I strongly encourage my fellow attorneys to participate in pro bono; not because it is required but because we should and we need to give back to our community to help make it a better place for future generations.