The PBEye

Pro Bono As We See It
January 11, 2011

Still Haven’t Found What You’re Looking For?

In econ-speak the concept of “artificial scarcity” describes the scarcity of items even when the technology and production capacity exists to create an abundance.  Likewise, in pro bono-speak the concept applies to those occasions when prospective volunteers complain of a scarcity and lack of availability of certain types of pro bono opportunities, such as sophisticated transactional work, high-profile litigation, and microfinance to name but a few common examples.  But – more often than not – this perceived scarcity is just as artificial as in the context of economics.  Look around our communities, nation, and the world; the need has never been greater.  The PBEye thinks this myth of artificial scarcity shouldn’t be used as an excuse or barrier to meaningful pro bono involvement.

Yes, finding and developing any particular pro bono opportunity may require persistence and ingenuity.  Leaders of successful pro bono programs understand that concentrated efforts must be made to build the necessary capacity and that they must bring to these efforts the same mindset, determination, and resources that they bring to other business development endeavors.  Developing expertise–substantive, procedural, or both–in a particular area of pro bono practice can be a significant factor in helping secure desirable pro bono matters, and building expertise sometimes means starting small.  It also means spending time and energy networking – the myth of artificial scarcity is fueled by the placement track that these engagements follow, or rather do not follow.  Rarely are these opportunities circulated or presented through routine channels and established pipelines.  Rather, they must be actively pursued and cultivated. 

We have a number of tools that you can use to combat the artificial scarcity phenomenon.  The Law Firm Pro Bono Project’s publication, Finding and Developing New and Varied Law Firm Pro Bono Opportunities, offers practical, detailed, and timely guidance on finding existing opportunities and creating your own.  (Project Members may contact Mary Baroch for a copy.)  Our must-attend Annual Seminar and In-House Forum, to be held March 3-5, 2011 in Washington, D.C., offers interactive programs, peer-to-peer learning, and practical advice on establishing new pro bono ventures and combating the myth of artificial scarcity as it relates to specific types of pro bono work.  Finally, PBI staff is available to provide confidential technical assistance to help you deal with frustrations and resolve any issues you may be encountering.  Let us know how we can help! 

Have you found or created a new and exciting pro bono project?  Leave a comment and tell us about it.