The Secret to Legal Success: Commitment to Pro bono
By Alex Chelesnik June 1, 2017/
NEW YORK – Every Wednesday at the Firm, the summer associates gather in the dining room for lunch and an installment in the Summer Speaker Series. Each week we hear from a panel of Weil lawyers, who are passionate about a certain aspect of firm life. This week featured the firm’s Pro bono Counsel, Miriam Buhl, and a team of lawyers working on a high profile First and Fourteenth Amendment pro bono case lead by Pro bono Committee member and litigation partner Steven Reiss. If you’ve ever met Steve, you know he tells it like it is, and the advice he had for the summer class was this:
“All good lawyers do pro bono. If you want to excel at your craft, you must commit to doing pro bono work.”
While every firm touts its pro bono commitment, and all of those firms do excellent pro bono work, I had never heard the individual lawyer’s responsibility to take on pro bono phrased as a categorical imperative. Altruism aside, Steve was telling us that one cannot become a great lawyer without growing through pro bono–full stop.
Steve and his team went on to tell us about the case they are currently working on, which is a decade in the making, and is finally headed to trial near the end of summer. In representing their client, the team is taking on viewpoint discrimination, arbitrary enforcement of laws, and a cadre of bureaucrats. One lucky summer associate who has been working on the matter will travel as part of the team to attend the ten-day trial to cap off his summer here.
For the rest of us, there are a host of pro bono projects in which we have been invited to participate. A significant number of summer associates are dedicating a full two weeks to a Weil sponsored pro bono externship. Pro bono is not merely an option for some or a quota to be met at Weil. It is a public service, but just as importantly, a self-service helping us become the best we can possibly be.