Let's Make Lawyers Happy: Advocating Mandatory Pro Bono
Harris, Donald Patrick
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Proponents of mandatory pro bono argue that lawyers have an obligation to provide free services because, among other things, the practice of law is a profession. Proponents further argue that mandatory pro bono is justified because lawyers enjoy a "monopoly" of the legal system, and with that monopoly comes an obligation to provide public service. Additionally, they argue there is a strong tradition of providing public service suggesting continued commitment to pro bono service and an attorney has a moral obligation to see that those already handicapped do not suffer the cumulative disadvantage of being without proper legal representation. Opponents of mandatory pro bono argue it is unconstitutional, there will be problems in administering a mandatory program, and the profession of law is no different from other professions which do not require public service. This paper proposes that the legal profession should redefine success to include service to others. The new definition will eschew economic success as the exclusive standard. Instead, the new definition will allow attorneys to focus on helping others and will ensure a sound legal system to which all persons have access. The new definition will also incorporate a high standard of morality and confer a benefit on lawyers, indigent clients, and society. Most importantly, one of the "highest goals of society," achieving and maintaining equality before the law, will be reached if lawyers adopt this new definition. Section I of this paper summarizes the debate over mandatory pro bono. Section II describes the increasing unhappiness of attorneys nationwide and explores various reasons for this discontent. Section II also discusses why lawyers should redefine success by demonstrating that the revised definition of success will quell much of the mandatory pro bono debate and help lawyers become more satisfied and happier. Section III demonstrates the wisdom of redefining success and makes clear that the ABA should consider revising the rules concerning pro bono service to make such service mandatory. This part of the paper will use the career of the late Justice Thurgood Marshall as the paradigm for an attorney who practiced the preferred definition of success.