Leadership and Pro Bono Go Hand in Hand

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Jason S. Collver
Access to Justice Coordinator,
University of Tennessee College of Law

There is a misconception amongst people that leaders are born and not bred. Leaders are bred by their experiences. These experiences do not have to be grand. The most important experiences a leader has are the minutia. Holding a door open for others or saying good morning to the barista at the local coffee shop. What does holding a door open for someone have to do with leadership? It all comes back to leading by example, the golden rule, “treat others how you would want to be treated.”

A leader focuses on the minutia, the small gestures that build over time to grander experiences. Leaders are not born over night, but are bred over time. So what does any of this have to do with pro bono service? Law students, paralegals, attorneys, and volunteers who provide pro bono service are leaders. They are leaders who have taken up the charge to “treat others how [they] would want to be treated.”

Pro bono service providers have answered the silent call to lead, to lead the legal profession forward in Access to Justice for the underserved. The smallest task performed without an expectation of recognition or reward starts the foundation upon which a great leader is built upon. The most basic characteristic or foundation of a pro bono leader is his or her willingness to serve. This willingness to serve inspires others to serve, creating self-starters.

Leaders in pro bono do not call for more people to participate in pro bono and then not participate themselves. Leaders in pro bono answer the call and ask other young leaders to work by their sides till the goal is accomplished.
Pro bono leaders give of themselves because it is how they would want to be treated if the roles were reversed. This giving of one’s self inspires not only other pro bono volunteers, but also the clients of which they serve.
Providers of pro bono are leaders, they lead by example encouraging others to lead with them. Leaders in pro bono understand it starts with the little things, saying hello, treating the client with respect, and listening, laying the foundation for the grand experience.

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