Skyler Anderson, Class of 2010: Participating in the Pro Bono Initiative at the S.J. Quinney College of Law has been the most rewarding and beneficial part of my law school experience. My focus was on the Immigration Clinic, over which I eventually became the PBI Law Student Coordinator while I was in law school. What started as an opportunity to further explore my interest in immigration law, led to invaluable experience with actual legal work in the field, and ultimately to multiple job offers and immediate employment after graduation. While many of my fellow law students were focusing exclusively on exam preparation, I was serving the community, networking with attorneys in my field of interest, and learning how to be an attorney long before graduation. I suspect that those “bleeding heart” law students who need no incentive to act upon their natural desires to serve their fellow man are already participating in the Pro Bono Initiative. For this reason, I will focus this submission on the more “selfish” reasons for volunteering.
First, anyone can do this. Beginning second semester of law school, I would regularly attend the Immigration Clinic. I had no substantial knowledge or understanding of immigration law, but my limited help was readily received. The Pro Bono Initiative welcomes any and all law student volunteers.
Second, pro bono work sets you apart from much of your class. I found that I was able to distinguish myself from my classmates who might have had significantly better grades by filling my resume with concrete examples of legal work. Separating myself from my class in such as way, I received opportunities and scholarships for which I otherwise would have been ineligible.
Third, pro bono work gives you a direction in your career path you may not have otherwise been able to obtain prior to graduating and taking a job. I found that many of my classmates, in approaching the end of their third year of law school, were still unsure of what they actually wanted to do. This ultimately limited their options at least for a time, to a field determined by a firm or agency, that happened to offer them a job. Although I began law school suspecting that i would enjoy immigration law, I was able to confirm my suspicions within my first year of law school. Because of this direction, I was then directed to civil and judicial clinics through the Clinical program involving immigration law. Knowing what I wanted to do gave me an invaluable opportunity to specialize before graduation and fill my resume with more experience in immigration law than most of my classmates.
Finally, pro bono work increases your job opportunities. Every month, that I participated in the Immigration Clinic, I worked with local attorneys in the field. By the time I graduated, I knew a substantial number of immigration attorneys; many of who hired me for various research and writing projects. I did not attend a single on campus interview nor did I send out my resume to anyone that did not specifically request one from me. Yet before graduation, I had multiple job offers one of which I ultimately accepted and with whom I am currently employed with. This is not to say my approach will work for everyone.
For those uninterested in immigration, there are many other PBI Legal Clinics and other opportunities to serve, to gain experience, and to figure out exactly what you want to do with your law degree. My volunteer work was the best thing I could have done for myself during law school. With that said, I strongly encourage all law students to be as self-interested as possible by serving in the community every chance you get.