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Pro Bono Program Staff - Job Descriptions

The Standards for Providing Civil Pro Bono Legal Services to Persons of Limited Means ("Standards") address the general criteria for employees of a pro bono program. Standard 4.7 provides that a pro bono program should employ personnel who are competent, sensitive to clients and committed to the provision of high quality legal services.

Pro bono programs vary in size, from a staff of one to a staff that encompasses attorneys, social service providers, and administrators. Regardless of size, every program should define the roles of all staff clearly in order for the program to run efficiently and effectively. Clearly defined duties and well-written job descriptions enable a program to recruit appropriate candidates as well as ensure understanding regarding job responsibilities on the part of staff and supervisors.

Staff Positions

The number of and types of jobs in a pro bono program will depend on a number of factors, such as program size and budget. Staff size may be as small as one person. Various positions may be either part- or full-time, depending on the needs of the program.

Common staff positions in a pro bono program include:

  • Executive Director
  • Pro Bono Manager/Coordinator
  • Intake Specialist
  • Training Coordinator
  • Paralegal
  • Legal Assistant
  • Social Worker
  • Administrative Assistant
  • Receptionist

Staff Descriptions and Duties

Each job description should set forth, as specifically as possible, both primary and secondary duties of the position. Additionally, each job description should also include the education, knowledge and skills required for the position. Often, personal characteristics (such as self-motivated, outgoing, etc.) are included as well.

Common job duties for pro bono staff include:

  • coordinating volunteer recruitment
  • orienting new volunteers
  • overseeing and developing volunteer recognition
  • screening clients/cases
  • placing matters with volunteers
  • tracking cases
  • developing reports
  • developing new pro bono projects
  • interacting with other program staff to develop and implement pro bono projects
  • conducting outreach to other legal providers, bar associations, and non-profits in the community
  • developing and directing publicity for the pro bono program
  • performing administrative duties
  • planning/oversight of training events
  • fundraising

Depending upon the size of the program, the above duties may be performed by one or two staff persons or may be shared among many staff persons. Providing staff with clear descriptions of their duties will avoid unnecessary duplication and enable them to carry out their duties efficiently and effectively.

How to Write a Job Description

A good job description explains the objectives, duties, and responsibilities of a job so that they are understandable even to a person unfamiliar with the field of pro bono management. When writing a job description, use clear and concise language. Keep sentence structure as simple as possible and include only words that contribute necessary information. Avoid using technical language or "jargon" whenever possible.

When writing a job description, always use the present tense. Describe the desired outcome of the work, rather than the method for accomplishing that outcome. For example, instead of "records case status updates from volunteers"- a task-oriented approach - you might say "obtains regular case status updates from volunteers."

Finally, a job description should include any necessary experience and qualifications. Be as specific as possible - for example, instead of "computer experience" you might say "experience with Word" or other specific applications.

Job Qualifications

The education, knowledge and skills required for a position will vary according to the duties performed. For example, a pro bono manager whose duties include developing and providing legal training to volunteers or supervising volunteer lawyers may require a law degree, while a pro bono manager who does not engage in providing legal advice or training may not.

It should be noted that Standard 4.8 recommends that non-attorney staff have appropriate attorney supervision. Programs should evaluate employees' activities to determine when attorney supervision is advisable, and provide such supervision either on staff or through a volunteer.

For More Information

For materials on job descriptions and roles, including sample job descriptions, please see the Center for Pro Bono's Clearinghouse web page at http://www.abaprobono.org/clearinghouselibrary.html. For additional information regarding job descriptions and roles, please at the Center for Pro Bono.

Updated: 7/27/2012

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