Beyond the Cynicism:
Judges Can Help Lawyers and the Community
Through Pro Bono
By Hon. Bill Henry
judge steps into the courtroom on Monday morning for a
docket call. The civil docket is filled with pro se litigants
attempting to handle complex litigation without legal
help. They are dividing complex retirement benefits
“by agreement.” Pro se consumers are lined up against
represented parties. Some of the lawyers who do show up have little trial experience.
This scenario repeats itself day in and day out in courts across the nation. What are the long-term
implications of this situation for the practice of law and what can be done to help improve these issues?
Pro bono services may provide a way to alleviate some of these problems and move our profession
to a place in which benefiting the community is a primary goal. A number of lawyers, bar associations,
and law schools are taking the road less traveled to find practical ways to meet needs in the real
world and improve the profession by offering pro bono services. What about judges, though? What
role should they play in encouraging this process?
Trial judges are acutely aware of several mega trends that are taking place in the legal profession.
most lawyers cannot get trial experience. Without talented, experienced trial lawyers, the
Sixth and Seventh amendments of the Constitution lose their impact and offer less protection to
citizens who need it.
young lawyers are finding
it challenging to develop a practice in
which they represent real people with
real problems in court.
even experienced lawyers are
getting fewer and fewer opportunities to
hone their craft through trial experience.
Without this experience, lawyers may
find it difficult to represent their clients
effectively, obtain board certification or
grow their careers through membership
in organizations such as American Board
of Trial Advocates.
some courts are inundated with
pro se dockets and have no effective way
to insure justice to parties within ethical
, law schools are struggling to find
trends that are
in the legal