Charity Schmarity Law


Attention wannabe charity lawyers:

For all of you Bitter Lawyers out there in the morass of layoffs, bonus freezes and rescinded offers who are thinking of making that proverbial lemonade by turning your job loss into an opportunity for being a bleeding-heart do-gooder, I have four words for you: Back the truck up.  Pro bono law is not what you may think it is.

The pro bono world, with all those sappy, well-intentioned charities, coalitions and foundations is ugly, people. Ugly. Both on the non-legal and legal side, you will find megalomaniacs, media whores, glory seekers and, worst of all, politicians. They will employ you for peanuts and squander your JD on stuffing envelopes, only to then take credit for your brilliance (should you ever have the good fortune to display some).

Humanitarians are usually well-intentioned, but they think their non-profit organization is their personal vehicle for stardom. And they have no problem guilting you into spending non-billable hours drafting worthless contracts or litigating ridiculous claims. Take for example an agreement I recently pored over for hours. It was basically just a document to get some rich guy’s sizeable (and tax-deductible) donation into an already well-endowed university in exchange for his name in lights above the new gratuitous sports facility.  You would not believe the tantrums thrown over stipulating the font size of this guy’s name and how often it will appear in publications. C’mon, really? This is what you call humanitarian?

Now consider the beneficiaries of your work. As a pro bono lawyer, you may end up spending time at clinics that provide legal services for the poor. Don’t get me wrong; this is a very worthwhile and necessary endeavor. Just be aware of what might walk into your office. Take for example this dear, sweet spinster I had come in for a public housing matter. She eventually divulged the true motive of her visit and asked me with a straight face if I could help her get a restraining order against the aliens that come in the night to sexually assault her. She was perfectly normal looking. She correctly knew the year, the current president and all other obvious indications of sanity were present, but for her “little UFO visits”. In desperation, I chose to deal with her the only easy way I knew how—I looked her straight in the eye and told her to cover her bed with a leopard-print bedspread, which will keep the aliens at bay. Of course, this made perfect sense to her. She joyfully thanked me and left a satisfied customer. And it wasn’t the only time I had given that advice.

I am all for aid to the needy, but just know that charities are often hopelessly ineffective and frighteningly wrought with lameness. And there is no guarantee you will actually do any good for anybody. So don’t be naïve. Because there’s nothing uglier than a bitter pro bono lawyer.

Guest posts at Bitter Lawyer are often filed under the name of Bitter Contributor. You too can become a contributor, though we are fairly picky. Find out how.

13 Comments

  1. Lawgurl

    April 24, 2009 at 7:50 am

    Can totally relate!

  2. BL1Y

    April 24, 2009 at 8:06 am

    Apparently a week of posts about boobs is fine, but a couple comments on the same topic gets the admin’s wrath.  Cute.

  3. Anon Male

    April 24, 2009 at 8:18 am

    Hey BL1Y:  Grow up.  Contrary to what you so pathetically believe, people don’t read this site because of you.  Your comments this morning, which I ready, sadly, were stupid, un-funny, and disrespectful.  For the sake of everyone who reads this stuff, please try to keep your comments somewhat relevant to the article.  Or at a minimum, just don’t be offensive and stupid.  If that’s not possible, go to Above the Law and waste their readers’ time.

  4. Soozie

    April 24, 2009 at 8:26 am

    Great piece.

  5. Daily reader

    April 24, 2009 at 9:21 am

    Thanks for the food of thought.

  6. Law Student

    April 24, 2009 at 10:48 am

    It’s interesting to see this point of view. I don’t know much about this type of law and imagined it a bit different.

  7. Anonymous

    April 24, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    ya, these guys are schizo, man!

  8. Dick Bird

    April 24, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    Anon Male, face it, you are not going to become a snatch magnet by bashing BL1Y here.  I did not see the posts which were omitted, but I agree with BL1Y that merely mentioning women’s boobs should not be cause for wiping off those comments, especially in light of the focus on boobs, real or otherwise, over the course of this last 2 weeks, by this website.  So Mr. Anon Male, if you are so righteous, go to supreme court. com and get serious there.  This is a site for bitter lawyers, and boobs is one area that is often bitter.

  9. Desi

    April 25, 2009 at 7:55 am

    The story about the leopard print bedspread is awesome and it worked.

  10. Lucy

    April 26, 2009 at 3:28 am

    Desi, what were you doing under that bedspread?  You’re my husband, but I think you’ve been unfaithful.  Pull your pants down and let me check.

  11. ddlaw

    April 27, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    great rant!

  12. Senior Associate

    April 29, 2009 at 11:27 am

    Everything you are saying is true.  I am a senior associate at a mid-sized law firm.  Once upon a time, I also had a pro bono matter for a client with public housing and mental/allergy issues.  She claimed that there were bugs and mold in her apartment and because of this, her mental issues were worse because she couldn’t sleep at night.  I won her case (on an administrative appeal) after ripping apart the housing director, finding loopholes in the county code, and presenting two medical experts (who I convinced to do it pro bono).  We won, and she got a brand-new, bug and mold-free, clean apartment.  The only problem was that she didn’t stop calling.  This woman called me every day for months to complain about everything from the roof to the fact that the neighbor was a child molester.  Finally, I had to tell her that the representation was over and that I couldn’t take her calls anymore.  I started to screen her calls and not answer or return her crazy whacko messages.  Then her sister-in-law called from her house (so I wouldn’t recognize the caller ID), who proceeded to chew me out about the fact that a lawyer cannot ignore her client’s phone calls (musta read that somewhere) and proceeded to tell me how much I sucked as a lawyer (even though I won her case). Then the client got on the line and proceeded to tell me that she didn’t end up moving to her new apartment because it was cold and she didn’t feel like moving her stuff.

  13. Roya

    April 29, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    You’re my hero! How many lawyers can provide such practical advice about avoiding alien sexual abuse. Well done.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>