Channeling Madonna, we are living in a virtual world, and I am a virtual girl. The pandemic has changed the way we work with clients and deliver services. For nonprofits, it has changed the landscape of how they engage with the community and partner with pro bono attorneys. But there is a silver lining: if you miss volunteering or are looking to get involved for the first time, now is your chance! There are so many different virtual opportunities to plug into, and for once, your location or time zone do not matter.
I can speak anecdotally that volunteering at the September 2020 virtual naturalization clinic was one of the best experiences I’ve had. It was efficient, clients had no issues joining, and I really felt like it maximized my available volunteer hours. I jumped onto Zoom for a few 2-hour slots throughout the week and assisted about 10 clients with their naturalization applications, all from the comfort of my own home! Afterwards, my colleagues and I felt that it was so beneficial, for clients and attorneys, in-person clinics may become a thing of the past.
Need some more convincing? Pro bono is not only good karma and a way to give back, particularly in COVID-times, but it is great for professional development. You get meaningful direct interaction with clients, you learn new skills and subject matter, and you get to network with other practitioners from all over the country. If you want some tips on how to manage pro bono in the pandemic, check out Pro Bono in a Time of Crisis by Erin Lynum with AILA’s Practice and Professionalism Center.
So now that you are ready to do a bit of pro bono, let’s talk about all the different types of pro bono—from “byte”-sized to full-case assistance. With AILA Citizenship Day around the corner (February 20, 2021), I can’t recommend volunteering with a local AILA Chapter enough. The clinics will be virtual, and a lot of events will allow you to volunteer for smaller chunks of time to help out a client or two, if you can’t commit for the whole day. Did I mention that it’s all done from the comfort of your own home? Want to learn more about how to volunteer for AILA Citizenship day? Connect with your local chapter’s Pro Bono Committee or check out the AILA National Pro Bono page.
A lot of organizations are also offering remote consultation or brief advice clinics. One such opportunity is the recently launched ABA Free Legal Answers. You can browse inquiries over your morning cup of joe and pick the questions you want to answer. You can learn by watching this video.
Looking for a more involved pro bono experience? You can provide pro se asylum application assistance with HIAS for individuals waiting in Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols, take a remote ICE release request, bond, appeal, or removal case with the Immigration Justice Campaign, or provide immigration representation through AILA’s Military Assistance Program. Don’t forget your local nonprofits may need help for virtual events and cases as well. To find a nonprofit near you, click here.
With all of these virtual options to give back, pro bono work can fit into anyone’s schedule. The AILA Pro Bono Committee hopes to see you virtually at an event soon! Feel free to share any other opportunities with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.