Being a lawyer is a great privilege, and with privilege comes responsibility. As our wise leader, Jody Stahancyk, often tells us, lawyers are called to be problem solvers and must aim to solve problems wherever they can. One of the ways that we do this is through our commitment to pro bono service, which not only benefits those vulnerable populations we represent, but it also benefits us as expert attorneys.
In Oregon, pro bono service is considered “aspirational.” The Oregon State Bar recommends only 20 to 40 hours, or two cases, a year without an expectation of compensation. At Stahancyk, Kent & Hook, we go beyond this suggestion, with lawyers at all levels representing clients in need on a pro bono basis. In particular, we accept the challenges of representing children in the middle of their parents’ high conflict divorce. Children are a vulnerable class that benefit from our expert team, and we enjoy the experience to give back. Time and again, we receive great appreciation from Judges and the rest of the legal community who applaud our dedication to children’s representation.
As a new lawyer, my first opportunity to take the reigns on my own case came in the form of a pro bono case representing children. I was appointed as the attorney for a minor child within five days of my swearing-in ceremony. Thankfully, I was able to rely on the wisdom of the more experienced attorneys in the office. Shareholders, senior attorneys, and junior attorneys all took time out of their billable hours and busy schedules to provide me with free advice, and my clients, in turn, benefitted from the plethora of SK&H in-house knowledge. I now have a new understanding of the “best interest of the child” standard, and this understanding helps guide my practice as an attorney.
Overall, I was fortunate to represent children in a pro bono case so early on in my career because it allowed me to grasp what it truly means to be a voice for the voiceless. I may have accepted the case free of charge, but the experience that I gained in return was priceless. Giving back to the community is just one of the many responsibilities that comes with the great privilege of practicing law.