People outside of my job often ask me what exactly it is I do for a living. When I respond with “I manage and develop pro bono opportunities for lawyers,” it often draws a blank stare. However, when I add “I herd cats and connect dots,” many people get this and start asking relevant questions.
Basically, I work with extremely busy lawyers and help them find ways to give free legal services to people and organizations that would not otherwise be able to afford their services. Some of my colleagues at the firm wonder at my ability to keep my sanity and humor when there are times I feel I’m the lone member of a team pushing a boulder up a hill.
The answer is easy: After many years, I still love my job. I love helping lawyers find projects they care about and can fit into the demands of a big law practice. It doesn’t matter if they are in their first year or fortieth year of practice. My goal is simple: Help them discover their passion. And when I can match a lawyer with a project for an organization I respect as much as I do The Advocates for Human Rights, life is good.
One of my favorite quotes of all time comes from Eleanor Roosevelt:
“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places,
close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any
maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory,
farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man,
woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity
without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there,
they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action
to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in
the larger world.”
Lawyers who want to work on human rights issues need look no further than The Advocates for Human Rights to satisfy their desire to impact lives here and abroad, and to help drive positive changes throughout a troubled world.
For me, and for my job, The Advocates offers something for just about everyone who takes Ms. Roosevelt’s quote to heart. From small, discrete research projects summarizing laws or reports to full-representation of asylum seekers, to drafting shadow reports to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, our lawyers have the interest and make the time to help. Their response and comments relating to the work continues to inspire me in my own job. I could not be more proud of the multiple responses I receive to meet requests for assistance for this outstanding organization and its clients.
I began writing this post before the attacks in Beirut, Paris, and Mali. But as I write today and think about what is going on in the world and within our own borders, I find Ms. Roosevelt’s words as relevant today as they were in 1958. The backlash we have seen toward Syrian refugees, and now Muslims in general, is more than disturbing. But it reminds me of the importance of tolerance and understanding, and the need to support organizations like The Advocates for Human Rights. Right here at home.
By: Pamela J. Wandzel, Director, Pro Bono & Community Service, Fredrikson & Byron, P.A.