BY MICHAEL R. ADDAMS AND JACQUI MERRILL MARTIN
Even in non-pandemic times, New Year’s resolutions are notoriously hard to keep. According to some studies, as many as 88 percent of them fail.11 www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748703478704574612052322122442. Research has shown that human willpower is weak, especially when the brain is overtaxed by stress and external stimuli.22 www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748703478704574612052322122442.
Attorneys—with lives full of stress and external stimuli—are not immune to this weakness. Despite what our critics and our biggest fans (happy former clients) both may suggest, attorneys are people, too. We have our aspirations, and we have our limits. We can easily take on too much and push ourselves too far. Whether it is because we love our work, are vying to make partner, or are trying to hit our minimum expected billables for the year, we can make it hard to achieve our self-improvement goals.
So, what can we do if we want to actually achieve our goals and accomplish our New Year’s resolutions in 2022? Suggestions include making a resolution with a friend for accountability, planning a reward for your completion, or shaping your resolution into something that you enjoy. But perhaps the best suggestion we have found to help make and keep resolutions is simply to make them realistic: Start small, with measurable, achievable goals that lead toward your higher aspirations.
As attorneys in Washington, we are charged under RPC 6.1 to aspire to provide at least 30 hours of pro bono service per year.33 www.courts.wa.gov/court_rules/?fa=
ruleid=garpc6. That may seem like a lot, but if you look closely, the word require is not found anywhere in that RPC or its comments. We can start small. We can take just one case, or volunteer with just one clinic. Doesn’t that sound realistic?
If you do aspire or resolve to provide some pro bono service in 2022, where can you find a pro bono organization that fits your interests and will help you to achieve this goal? The answer: Pro Bono Washington.
Pro Bono Washington, accessible at www.ProBonoWA.org, makes it easier than ever to keep your resolutions and get involved in pro bono opportunities and community-driven efforts. Perhaps you are interested in a one-day clinic advising or drafting documents, or maybe you would rather work with a client whose case has first been vetted through a Qualified Legal Service Provider (QLSP). No matter how you want to help, Pro Bono Washington is the centralized platform to seek out organizations that align with your interests and availability. Many of these fantastic legal service organizations now offer remote opportunities for volunteer legal professionals, making it easier to volunteer all across Washington state.
Have you ever considered trying your hand at a different practice area, but hesitated because you lack experience? Pro bono service is a great way to learn and gain mentorship from organizational leaders who are experts in their fields. Many QLSPs and other organizations listed on www.ProBonoWa.org offer training, resources, and other support to those who wish to volunteer in a subject matter outside of their practice area. Beyond expanding your base of knowledge, you can network with other legal professionals who are also committed to serving others who lack access to justice.
According to a 2015 study by Washington’s Office of Civil Legal Aid, 18 percent of Washington residents live at or below 125 percent of the federal poverty level, and 70 percent of low-income residents experience at least one civil legal problem per year.44 ocla.wa.gov/wp-content/uploads/ 2015/10/CivilLegalNeedsStudy_October2015_V21_Final10_14_15.pdf. The need for pro bono attorneys is great, particularly in rural areas where access to justice is often more restricted and resources are more limited. Many of these needs are being addressed by QLSPs and other organizations on www.ProBonoWa.org.
With more than 100 statewide organizations registered on the site, you can filter your search by practice area, clientele, and location to find the perfect match. Each organization’s profile includes pertinent information, such as the organization’s mission, whether your time is eligible for CLE credit, whether training is available, and who to contact for more information. On the site, you can simply click a link to contact an organization directly, or you can copy the organization’s listed contact email and write a personalized message to share more about yourself and how you would like to help. These organizations are grateful for your interest. The more information you are able to share in your initial contact, the better.
Pro Bono Washington also features a calendar of upcoming events. The calendar is a great way to find pro bono opportunities and trainings that fit your busy schedule. You can also find a library of resources and an FAQ page that addresses common pro bono-related questions, like whether you can engage in pro bono after retiring (spoiler alert: the answer is yes).
If you are committed to making a resolution this year, consider visiting www.ProBonoWa.org and reaching out to an organization to take just one pro bono case. That one case will make a difference in the life of a fellow Washingtonian, and it will help you on your journey to make and meet a meaningful and realistic goal in 2022.
This article was made possible by volunteer contributions from the WSBA Pro Bono & Public Service Committee (PBPSC), whose mission is to serve WSBA members by communicating opportunities and eliminating barriers to providing pro bono services to communities that experience poverty and injustice. The PBPSC is always looking for dedicated team members seeking to close the access to justice gap. If you are interested in getting involved with the PBPSC, contact Saleena Salango at firstname.lastname@example.org.
4. ocla.wa.gov/wp-content/uploads/ 2015/10/CivilLegalNeedsStudy_October2015_V21_Final10_14_15.pdf.