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When the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court suggested that all of the state’s attorneys either donate 25 pro bono hours a year or contribute up to 1 percent of their annual income to help provide legal service to the poor, the so-called aspirational rule was supposed to apply to everyone, not just litigators. And it does at least to a degree. Large law firms say that they are seeing more transactional attorneys than litigators enter the profession, and transactional attorneys often need help seeing how their brand of law applies to pro bono work. “We recognize that as more and more young attorneys are heading into transactional practices, it requires more work to find pro bono opportunities for them,” says Tamara S. Wolfson, who coordinates pro bono activities for Boston’s Palmer & Dodge. “We have done a lot in low-income housing, homelessness prevention, housing discrimination, landlord matters and I don’t see that work abating.” “Boston has been ahead of the curve” when it comes to involving transactional attorneys in pro bono work, says Esther Lardent, president of the Pro Bono Institute, in Washington, D.C. She cited Boston’s Goulston & Storrs and Hale and Dorr among “the pioneers in transactional work” for free. WHERE THE JOBS ARE Betsy Armour, the director of career development at Boston University School of Law, says that students may be gravitating toward transactional law because they are more savvy about where job opportunities lie. “They are smarter about articulating their interest in this area and aware of the heightened visibility there is for that kind of client, with all the dot-com companies,” she says. “But it’s still the responsibility of the law schools and the bar to educate junior lawyers about incorporating pro bono into their practices. The message should be, ‘Just because you don’t do litigation, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do pro bono.’” Wolf, Greenfield & Sacks, a 46-attorney intellectual property law practice in Boston, is developing a pro bono policy and is wrestling with how to involve the largely transactional staff in pro bono opportunities. “There are not a lot of identifiable pro bono patent applications,” says Matt B. Lowrie, head of the litigation practice group that is working on the policy. “But when we did a survey on what our attorneys want out of life, money was not at the top of the list. Family was No. 1. Feeling more fulfilled and having a sense of doing something for the community is important to them. My guess is that people here will feel good and strong about doing pro bono.” When Boston’s Goodwin, Procter & Hoar appointed a full-time pro bono coordinator earlier this year, it had transactional attorneys in mind. MATCHING NEEDS TO PEOPLE “It was institutional support designed to respond to the need for [more] business and transactional lawyers to do pro bono,” says William P. Mayer, head of the firm’s pro bono committee. “With this new position, we can match opportunities to attorneys on a more active basis with the interests of our attorneys in mind. We’ve already seen some indication of increased participation.” Housing matters, particularly in a high-rent area such as greater Boston, historically have translated well into pro bono opportunities for transactional attorneys, but there are others in which corporate lawyers can use what they know. “They can draft a will for someone dying of AIDS, set up a trust for an elderly person, mediate a divorce,” says Boston attorney Michael P. Boudett, of Boston’s Foley, Hoag & Eliot. “We just had a transactional attorney represent someone whose trademark rights were ripped off.” But although the large law firms have resources, as Lardent puts it, “to integrate pro bono work into what they do every day through their staffing structure,” that’s hardly the case at small firms or with sole practitioners, who nonetheless are expected to meet the SJC’s aspirational rule to provide free legal services. Often, sole practitioners find an established outlet in the court system — a mediation program in one of the district courts, for example — rather than do pro bono work by seeking individual cases on a nonfee or reduced-fee basis. The “Lawyer for a Day” program in Massachusetts’ Essex County Probate and Family Court is one such program. Attorneys volunteer to meet briefly with members of the public who need advice on what forms to file or the route to take in resolving legal matters. Salem, Mass., attorney Jacqueline V. Lees says that she does pro bono work through the probate program about once a month. “My experience is that it’s easier to go through an established program because that way I know what I’m in for, and I can control it,” says Lees, who has a small general practice. “I can see 12 or 20 people in a day. I’m not their lawyer, but I tell them what they need to do and send them on their way to do it.”

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