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03 - Training Volunteers

Best Practices in Pro Bono:
Training Volunteers

The Best Practices in Pro Bono Guides were created to provide a model for pro bono programs and increase consistency in pro bono work across organizations. The guides present concise practical information on implementing and maintaining pro bono projects. The content in this section was gathered by Sande L. Buhai, Clinical Professor, Loyola Law School, Los Angeles.

What is the Importance of Training Volunteers?

Volunteers can come from a variety of sources and can have varied background and experiences. Volunteers could be lay people, college students, first year law students, upper division law students, young associates, partners in law firms or retired lawyers or judges. Volunteers could be expert s in your area of practice or completely unfamiliar with the practice area. Volunteer s may have experience working with your demographic or be completely unfamiliar wit h the people that you serve. Be cause of volunteers’ varied backgrounds and experiences, training is essential in ensuring quality of service to clients and a positive experience for volunteers.

What is the goal of this section?

The goal here is to provide you with some resources to assist i n training volunteers for legal services organizations or law schools. Trainings can be general, such as how to select an appropriate project , how to manage your time and resources, how to best work with the agency or law school on the project or how to get specific help when needed. Other trainings can be content specific, for example, h ow to draft a declaration for a domestic violence TRO or ho w to help someone with a specific immigration application.

Remembering that different people have different learning styles, it is useful to offer trainings in a variety of met hods. A manual that lays out specific steps for filing a particular type of case is great, but having a video that goes along with it would be even better. On-line training can be very effective for some volunteers, but others may find it more accessible to go to a live presentation. Checklists can be very useful. For example, giving a volunteer a checklist that lays out the things they should ask when accepting a new assignment can help them feel empowered to take on the project. Even encouraging volunteers to ask simple questions such as: when is the deadline, what resources or samples are available, when can we meet to discuss the next steps, and how long should this take, can be very helpful in ensuring a successful experience.


The best guide I have found is provided by OneJustice, a non-profit dedicated to working with legal services organizations. OneJustice provides resources, consulting, and other technical assistance to legal services nonprofits, law firms, corporations, and law schools on developing and managing pro bono programs and partnerships. With stakeholders, OneJustice drafted the California Pro Bono Best Practices Guide (2014 ed.), a tool guiding pro bono coordinators in t he nonprofit and private sectors on how to manage pro bono partnerships. Chapter 2 focuses on training for volunteers and has a wealth of information.

Category: Pro Bono

Tags: Pro Bono