Pro Bono Professionalism Tips
All students doing volunteer legal work must abide by basic rules of professionalism, outlined below. Of course professionalism goes far beyond these rules, and we expect all students to conduct themselves in a manner befitting their role as ambassadors for the Law School, and most importantly to provide quality legal assistance in a professional manner that is respectful of the clients you serve.
LEARN TO BALANCE ACADEMICS AND PRO BONO WORK. While UCI Law is highly supportive of pro bono work, students must balance all outside obligations with the obligation to attend classes and insure that academics receive all necessary attention. Students feeling overwhelmed must contact the Director of Public Interest Programs rather than avoiding either their pro bono or academic work.
ALL PRO BONO WORK IS CONFIDENTIAL. No matter how juicy the details, or how relevant your pro bono work may be to a classroom or study group discussion, do not discuss it! Always, always, always ask permission of your pro bono supervisor before discussing any facts about a pro bono case with anyone that is not working on the case. Do not talk to the press or anyone else about a case or matter unless you have permission from your supervising attorney (and the client!). Do not discuss any facts of your pro bono case on any social media forum.
AVOID PRACTICING LAW WITHOUT A LICENSE. You may never give legal information or advice to any person or client without the express prior authorization of your supervising attorney.
DRESS FOR SUCCESS. The first time you meet your supervising attorney dress formally, or ask in advance about the dress code. If you do not know what "business casual" means, err on the side of formality, or ask the Career Development Office or Anna Davis, Director of Public Interest Programs for guidance. When in doubt, wear a suit.
NO SOCIALIZING VIA PHONE OR COMPUTER. Do not text, Facebook, Tweet, or use other personal forms of communication when you are at a pro bono project.
BE ON TIME, AND CALL AND EMAIL IF YOU WILL NOT BE COMING IN. If you cannot make it to a scheduled pro bono meeting or weekly event, call and email your supervising attorney as far in advance as possible. Do not assume they know your make-up class or finals schedule. Err on the side of informing attorneys when you will not be available.
STAY IN TOUCH WITH YOUR ATTORNEY SUPERVISOR. It is YOUR duty, not theirs, to remain in touch with your pro bono supervisor. Emailing once or twice and then giving up is not sufficient. Attorneys are extraordinarily busy. Keep emailing polite reminders. If in doubt, ask the Director of Public Interest Programs, for guidance.
WRITE DOWN THE CASES YOU WORK ON. In the future you may have to run conflicts checks with future employers or externship placements. You will need to know the names of the cases that you worked on for pro bono.
IF YOU HAVE PROBLEMS, CONTACT THE DIRECTOR OF PRO BONO PROGRAMS. This includes problems contacting your supervising attorney. Anna does not know there are problems unless you tell her!