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Pro Bono Net

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Oct. 28 - An Essential Part of Any Legal Education, Pedro Bermeo, UVA Law

In honor of National Celebrate Pro Bono Week, Pro Bono Net has lined up a variety of guest bloggers from law firms, legal aid organizations and elsewhere to share their pro bono ideas and experiences. This post comes from Pedro Bermeo, a third-year at University of Virginia law school.

As a third year law student, I am only now beginning to understand the advantages of doing pro bono legal work. Of course, there are the obvious benefits one gets from helping others. It is great to see the gratitude of the clients you work with when you volunteer your time. When you are able to help them resolve their legal problems, they are even more thankful because you provided that help without asking for anything in exchange. I, however, want to focus on the other advantages of pro-bono legal work, particularly the advantages to those who are just starting their legal careers.

The most striking aspect of my experience with pro-bono work has been seeing the opportunities that exist for young attorneys, or even law students, to take ownership over a client matter. While paying clients might not be comfortable paying fees for the work of someone with little experience, pro-bono clients are more accepting. This is not to say that the quality of the legal work decreases in pro-bono matters. In my experience, pro-bono work is supervised by attorneys with experience who have the ultimate responsibility over the work. However, pro-bono matters do allow those with less experience to get their first crack at performing critical legal tasks such as drafting affidavits, conducting depositions, or even making arguments before a court.

While law school is certainly a valuable educational experience, it is true that often it does not do a great job of teaching future lawyers how actually to be lawyers. In my limited experience, pro-bono work has allowed me to get substantive experience that I hope to use in my future billable work. To me, pro-bono work should be an essential part of any young lawyer's legal education. With the opportunity to gain experience while helping those who have no one else to help them, there is really no excuse not to volunteer one's legal skills.

Pedro Bermeo was born in Quito, Ecuador and grew up in Bethesda, Maryland. He graduated from the University of Virginia in 2009 with a B.A. and will graduate from the University of Virginia School of Law next May. Pedro did a 2-week externship at Pro Bono Net last summer as a Davis Polk summer associate.

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Yoana Rodriguez is a lawyer from Guatemala whose main interest lies with human rights, specifically with indigenous communities and women’s rights. Rodriguez volunteers regularly at The Advocates for Human Rights on their National Asylum Help Line, or Linea de Ayuda Nacional de Asilo. LEARN MORE

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