Pro Bono Work

photo-jackie-m-stebbins-attorney-at-lawBy Jackie M. Stebbins

I went to law school for the same reason as I believe many of my colleagues did: to help people.  Many lawyers become lawyers because they see need in the world and want to help those who do not have a voice to help themselves.  As you go through law school and learn how to write like a lawyer, think like a lawyer and read case law like a lawyer, you are taught the fundamental skills to become a successful lawyer; but what you’re not taught, is how to balance your schedule, how to manage clients and how to run a business if you go into private practice.  Young lawyers are faced with learning how to practice law in substance (how to write a motion, how to read the Rules, how to go to trial, how to litigate, how to negotiate, how to work as a professional with your colleagues, etc.) and how to survive in a business world when you probably haven’t had much formal education in business, marketing or accounting.  On top of that, you need to balance in how to find the time to provide pro bono services.


The North Dakota Rules of Professional responsibility do not require North Dakota lawyers to provide pro bono service, rather Rule 6.1 states that, “A lawyer should render public interest legal service.”  The Rule notes that pro bono service isn’t just in the form of traditional legal services but can be rendered in other ways such as providing public service to charitable groups or organizations, too.


I just finished up a pro bono domestic case that I took-on about a year ago.  A person in great need was referred to me by another attorney who knew that this person needed competent legal representation, but could never afford to hire an attorney, even at a reduced fee.  I took the case and it went all the way through trial.


Working for someone in such great need is what lawyers do every day.  People with a lot of money or a little money can find themselves in need of legal representation.  We as lawyers take great pride in helping all of our clients to find successful resolution of their problems.  Something that’s satisfying in a way that is hard to even put into words, is to take-on a client on a pro bono basis and know that they’re eternally grateful to you for your work.  It takes you away from the drive for litigation, mediation and running a business, and allows you to remember exactly why you became a lawyer in the first place.  You wanted to help people no matter the form that they came to you in.


Through the course of my legal career I have taken traditional pro bono cases, mostly in the domestic realm, but in some other areas of practice as well and have sat on boards such as the Tobacco Free Coalition and Prevent Child Abuse North Dakota.  I am always proud to render public interest legal service.  At Stebbins Mulloy, Micheal and I are committed to providing the best service possible to all of our clients and to also meet our calling to render public interest legal services.