Of all the strategies we employ to increase pro bono engagement, there is one that – by any measure – rises above the rest. Indeed, it is the only policy I can recall that prompts people to come by my office or, more recently, reach out to me over Zoom,
Every year around this time, my colleague Erin Meyer and I can be found going through and carefully selecting pro bono opportunities for Proskauer’s incoming first-year associates. Each of them will be assigned a pro bono matter on their first day at Proskauer.
Why have we made this a priority? Assigning these matters sends a powerful message that pro bono work is important and a vital part of life at Proskauer. The new matters encourage our lawyers, from day one, to look beyond the office walls to recognize both the tremendous unmet need for legal services in this country and the incredible difference each of us can make in our communities.
Lawyers who perform pro bono at the beginning of their careers are more likely to do so years later, creating a lasting effect on our new lawyers and strengthening the culture of the firm.
For the same reasons, the firm has made pro bono work a big part of its summer associate experience.
Tradition is a funny thing. It can be tempting to dismiss it as something static and fixed, when in fact, it is a dynamic and ever-evolving creature. It is a tradition’s inheritors who determine what to maintain, adapt and carry on; traditions are an amalgamation of both the present and the past. It is through this reiterative process that traditions grow strong enough to stand the test of time.
Every fall, law firms across the United States determine what parts of their traditions and culture to instill in the next generation of attorneys joining their ranks as first-year associates. New hire orientations can set the tone not only for the future of a firm, but for the shape of associates’ entire careers. Proskauer passes on a tradition of public service through its first-year associate pro bono program, which gives each new member of the Firm a pro bono matter as their first assignment.
Because the corporate social responsibility and pro bono presentation is the very first session of Proskauer’s orientation program, new associates learn about this assignment within hours of starting at the Firm, even before we are inducted into our respective practice groups.