Paralegals can expand pro bono services to those in need. Pro bono legal work offers paralegals the opportunity to use their professional skills and abilities to assist members of their community. In return, pro bono offers paralegals the opportunity for personal satisfaction, professional growth and recognition.
There are numerous opportunities for paralegals to do pro bono work in existing or new programs. The roles of pro bono paralegals vary depending on the nature of the program. A paralegal can perform many tasks under the guidance of an attorney, such as interviewing clients, drafting legal documents, representing clients in administrative hearings, providing referrals and collecting and disseminating discovery.
The following are a few examples of pro bono work being done by paralegals in Illinois:
- Processing new client calls and investigating potential new cases.
- Providing direct person-to-person online help for individuals navigating a website with legal information so that people in need of legal assistance can obtain the information they need to achieve more positive outcomes to their legal problems.
- Serving as a language interpreter to help attorneys communicate with their clients – many of whom have experienced violence and persecution – as they prepare applications for immigration legal protections.
- Providing assistance to non profits and small businesses on a number of intellectual property issues.
Paralegals should keep in mind the ethical considerations when participating in pro bono work. According to the National Federation of Paralegal Associations, paralegals should know how the unauthorized practice of law statutes in each jurisdiction applies to pro bono participation.
- ABA Center on Pro Bono - ideas for paralegal pro bono projects.
- National Federation of Paralegal Associations – describes the National Federation of Paralegal Associations’ pro bono history, goals, and awards.
- Paralegal Today - "Getting Into the Pro Bono Game" is an article that discusses using your paralegal experience to start a firm-wide volunteer program
- Illinois Paralegal Association - provides the Illinois Code of Paralegal Ethics