Apr 01, 2018
A Call for Service–For Everyone's Benefit
Apr 01, 2018
By Thomas S. Brown
Too often it seems like lawyers are criticized from all sides: by clients for not delivering on unreasonable expectations, by fellow litigators in an effort to gain a tactical edge, by judges for filing unnecessary discovery motions, and by those in the community for just generally, well, being lawyers. The criticism certainly comes too from politicians and the media, where our daily news is engulfed by a focus on the problems of the role of law in our society. In short, practicing law requires having a thick skin, something I learned several years ago and continue to learn on a daily basis.
In an effort to get a respite from the practice of law, may I offer a recommendation: let’s practice more law. This past month, the MCBA and Legal Aid of Marin co-hosted the annual Pro Bono Awards Luncheon. Attendees were treated to an inspiring acceptance speech by Tim Nardell, who was recognized for his devotion to pro bono this past year. In presenting the awards, Presiding Judge Paul Haakenson spoke of his perception of lawyers as doing much good in the world, recalling the impromptu free legal services provided to Ebony, one of his Street Law students from law school, who had no one to turn to when his mother died suddenly in the home they shared in Hunter’s Point in San Francisco as one of the first in a long line of instances of helping he has encountered. Finally, Legal Aid Board President Johnathan Gertler noted how much greater the need is in Marin than it used to be. These were inspiring speeches and a very helpful reminder why many of us elected to pursue a career in law in the first place.
Helping those who are unfortunate or in dire need of basic legal assistance is a rewarding feeling for all involved. We encourage members to become involved in the many worthwhile pro bono and other legal services offered by the Marin County legal community. Whether you are a sole practitioner, a government prosecutor or public defender, or a partner or associate in a large corporate firm, opportunities abound to give back to the legal community. MCBA’s Lawyers in the Library Program is serving more and more people and in need of volunteers. Legal Aid of Marin’s needs continue to expand. Several settlement conference panels provide yet more opportunities.
Or you might consider volunteering your time to coach one of our excellent mock trial teams (our own Tamalpais High School brought home the state title again this year) or participate in a street law or government class at one of the local high schools. Having done so myself, I can vouch that fielding questions from high school students on the Fourth Amendment can be every bit as challenging as arguing a summary judgment motion or cross-examining a police officer.
Another program to consider joining is the MCBA’s Mentor Program, which we are looking to reinvigorate this year. Similar to the Barristers Program in San Francisco, this program partners a more seasoned attorney with a newer bar admittee or MCBA member. The goal is to provide a resource to newly admitted—or newly arrived in Marin—attorneys to assist them in becoming familiar with the legal landscape and resources available in the County. Those of you who are interested in becoming a mentor, please contact me.
Finally, if volunteering your services is not your idea of taking a break from the practice of law, then keep a look out in the upcoming months for MCBA’s Wellness events, where you can find some relief from the pressures of the practice of law without practicing more law.
Thomas S. Brown is Of Counsel at Foley and Lardner LLP where he is a member of the Firm’s Government Enforcement Defense & Investigations Practice Group. He is President of the Marin County Bar Association and earned his B.A. from UC Berkeley and J.D. from the University of San Francisco School of Law.