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Debbie O'Leary
Indiana University Maurer School of Law

Last modified: Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Panel encourages law students to give back, get experience

Feb. 11, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Whenever attorney Marc Kadish hears a joke about the legal profession, he reminds himself of all the good work lawyers do for others, often free of charge.

Kadish, director of pro bono activities at Mayer Brown in Chicago, joined panelists discussing the virtues of pro bono work at "Pro Bono Stories: Building Careers, Changing Lives" Feb. 4 at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law.

The program, which was the brainchild of the school's Pro Bono Fellows, Rachael Yates, and Judy Reckelhoff, was sponsored by the Office of Career and Professional Development. Funded by Baker & Daniels, the fellows develop and coordinate pro bono opportunities at School of Law.

pro bono panel

Ann Schertz

Monroe Circuit Judge Mary Ellen Diekhoff, left, and Allison Fetter-Harrott, an attorney with Baker & Daniels, take part in a discussion of pro bono legal work.

In addition to Kadish, the panel included Monroe Circuit Judge Mary Ellen Diekhoff, JD'86; Monica Fennell, executive director of the Indiana Pro Bono Commission; Allison Fetter-Harrott, JD'05, Baker & Daniels; Kendall Millard, JD'98, partner at Barnes & Thornburg; and Patricia McKinnon, an Indianapolis family law specialist.

The panelists recounted for students the impact their pro bono work has had on their careers.

Millard recalled gaining his first trial experiences before immigration judges in asylum cases.

"Of course it's important to help people with their legal needs," he said, "but it also gives young lawyers tremendous experience they might not otherwise get."

Fetter-Harrott urged students to inquire about opportunities to do pro bono work when interviewing with law firms. She said one of the key reasons she joined Baker & Daniels was the firm's commitment to helping those in need. She currently works with Holocaust survivors, helping them apply for reparations from the German government.

"I invite all of you to view your legal careers as an opportunity to give back," Fetter-Harrott said. "Find a place where the commitment to pro bono work is both fostered and supported."

Pro bono work can also help reinforce high standards of performance. Diekhoff said lawyers need to represent all their clients with the same level professionalism.

"The judge doesn't care if this is a paying or non-paying client," she said, and a judge will remember if an advocate does a half-hearted job. "It will affect your reputation as a lawyer."

Reckelhoff said the goal of the panel discussion was to inspire law students to pursue pro bono work, regardless of the practice areas they choose upon graduation.

"The panel was excellent and illustrated how personally and professionally rewarding pro bono work can be," she said.