Pro Bono Week: beyond pro bono work

By Jasleen Kaur
In honour of Pro Bono Week, I would like to highlight the various ways in which we can promote access to justice, beyond pro bono casework. When undertaking pro bono work, there is a crisis. You start seeing both sides of the legal profession – the side obsessed with billable hours and the side obsessed with the facilitation of access to justice. It’s a duality that keeps me up at night, as I, like most people, see the value in both. So how do we reach our material goals but also facilitate access to justice? The only answer I can come up with is using your strengths to enable empowerment instead of dependencies.
Stephen Wexler wrote an insightful article on practising law for financially and socially vulnerable people, which he refers to as “poverty law.” It’s worth noting that we all have the potential to become vulnerable at some point in our lives, and it’s important to understand that this is not a fixed state. Wexler offers solutions that go beyond traditional pro bono work and utilize a variety of skill sets. For those who are natural leaders and organizers, he suggests creating networks of resources and organizations within impoverished communities. For those with a passion for writing, creating simple and easy-to-understand legal resources is a great option. For those who enjoy teaching, demystifying the law can be incredibly helpful. Those who enjoy advocacy can train others in confrontation, while those with a nurturing instinct can foster communities.
Access to justice is something that all legal professionals can work towards, whether they are scholars, students, or solicitors. Instead of dismissing the idea of pro bono work as something that “they” do, we should take a closer look at ourselves and how we can use our unique strengths to help others gain access to justice.