Whether you’re at the beginning of your career or have been practicing for several years, extra time is something you don’t have much of.
When you’re not putting in long hours at the office or taking calls at home, you’re trying to fit in having a life by doing basic but essential things that people in other professions often take for granted, like having dinner with friends or grocery shopping. You know that you need to do things to take care of yourself, such as cooking healthy meals and exercising, but you may be overlooking a way to do something good for yourself and for others at the same time. Have you thought about volunteering?
Volunteering is More Than Pro Bono Work
Now, you may already do pro bono work, either as a requirement of your firm or because you’re passionate about helping in a specific area. However, volunteering your services as a lawyer is only one way to give back. You can help others while reaping the many proven benefits that come from volunteering, and you can add the bonus of giving your mind a break from constantly thinking in legal terms and obsessing over cases.
Studies continue to show just how much people get out of helping others. Volunteering improves mental health, lifts mood, and can even raise your self-esteem. Those who volunteer tend to live longer and stay mentally sharp as they age. The social aspect of connecting within your community leads to increased community bonds and less loneliness—a common problem for busy professionals. And of course, volunteering can end up helping your career by not only presenting networking opportunities, but allowing you to work on, for instance, leadership or communication skills.
Giving back outside of your role as a lawyer will help you view volunteering as a facet of your personal time, rather than just another (boring, frustrating, required) extension of the office that you’re not even getting paid for. Think about what you’re interested in, what your skills are and how you can translate them to something other than being a lawyer, and how much time you’re able to give.
Then think about what kind of work might feel most rewarding to you: advocating for domestic violence victims, working with at-risk youth at a nonprofit, walking dogs and cleaning cat cages at an animal shelter. There are endless opportunities and ways to help that can fit into any schedule.
In the next few weeks, list a few areas you’re interested in and skills you have beyond your legal expertise that may help in a volunteer capacity. Then research organizations that may be able to use your help and will allow you to work within your particular time constraints.