You cannot be a lawyer without giving something of yourself to the public. At attorney by their very nature is someone who is supposed to advocate on someone’s behalf. So of course, attorneys should be required to provide pro bono services.
There is nothing in any of the State Bar Association rules (including the ABA) that indicate that the pro bono hours are to be related to the legal field. As a matter of fact, most attorneys should find it useful to engage in other voluntary civic activities outside of the legal realm. It could include working for the Girl Scouts, teaching English as a second language, or even coaching a kid’s sports league.
Most of the people (attorneys) who argue against this position are citing various reasons from constitutionality to indentured servitude. While most attorneys are willing to sell their souls for billable hours, (isn’t that a form of slavery?) they are often lacking a deeper connection with people and society around them. Unfortunately, law school does not even place an importance (as all of them should) on reaching out to making society a better place. Social justice is just as important any other kind of justice. The goal of the justice system should be to weigh the interests of every individual and to help society evolve. It should be focused on the advancement of all kinds of rights, including economic.
Pro Bono projects help attorneys in many respects. Aside from developing important social skills, it can help any attorney relate better to their clients. It can help an attorney become a better public speaker, perhaps even improve intercultural communication, and it can sharpen your interpersonal skills. This profession is notoriously ripe with people who are deficient in communication skills. Aside from all of this, if you are a trial attorney, it can help you relate to a jury when you are used to working with people from different kinds of backgrounds. It will help you to relate to others in general. After all, “others” are what make up the justice system. So in effect, pro bono hours make for a better attorney.
For those people who want something in return for any hour, even if its only ten minutes of their time, there can be ways to reward people for the time we give to others. For instance, maybe its receiving Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credit for the time spent volunteering. CLE credit is mandatory for every state bar. Perhaps it could be receiving credit on certain billable hours. For Government attorneys, it could be as easy as receiving certain days out of the office to complete a pro bono project.
It would be horrible for anyone to take the position that Attorneys should not be required to give back to the society. Society tolerates us. We prolong people’s lives and make the battle a little more expensive, depending on how we are interacting in people’s lives. A little giving can go a long way.