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  New York City Bar

Being a Pro Bono Counsel

miriam buhlMiriam Buhl is Pro Bono Counsel at Weil, Gotshal & Manges, LLP and has coordinated the firm’s award-winning worldwide pro bono program since 2005. In 2011, Weil’s 1,200 attorneys performed nearly 80,000 hours of pro bono work on a wide range of issues including human rights, economic development, corporate governance, political asylum and environmental protection. Ms. Buhl was named Pro Bono Counsel of the Year by The Legal Aid Society in 2006, in 2010 she received the Nonprofit Coordinating Committee’s first Public Advocacy Award, and in 2012 she received the Louis J. Lefkowitz Public Service Award from Fordham University School of Law. Ms. Buhl is a graduate of Brown University and Fordham University School of Law.

How did you decide to pursue a career in pro bono?
After brief experience as a biglaw paralegal, I was bouncing around from job to job when I read about the NAACP’s Yonkers fair housing case and was moved to go to law school and focus on public interest. My first gig as a housing attorney at Legal Aid and subsequent positions running various programs, nonprofits and foundations gave me the wide experience that I draw on now as Weil’s Pro Bono Counsel.

Did you have mentors who helped you define and shape your career?
Fordham Law Dean John Feerick was the first person (other than my mother) who saw some glimmer of potential in me, and for that I’m tremendously grateful. The public interest community and clients I’ve met along the way also inspire me. My co-workers are incredible, and the co-chairs of Weil’s Pro Bono Committee, Steve Reiss and John Strasburger, are the kinds of bosses that make you to want to work harder every day.

What has been one of the most interesting pro bono cases you have coordinated?
I’m most proud of initiating the housing work Weil does with Legal Aid, because of my history there, our annual Not-for-Profit Board Governance Symposium, and the strong relationship we’ve built with the Innocence Project.

What challenges do you experience with your practice?
Surviving with dignity the disappointment when my colleagues are disabused of the charming notion that I am brilliant and know, in depth, all of the areas of law in which their pro bono matters lie – everything from nonprofit incorporation to death penalty questions. If I knew all of that. . . .

What do you particularly enjoy about your job?
It is a thrill to work at a firm that actively encourages full engagement in our communities through pro bono. I particularly enjoy helping deliver legal assistance to individuals and organizations who need and deserve it.

What advice do you have for an attorney who is interested in taking on a pro bono case?
Carpe diem.

Interview conducted by Elizabeth Carline, Legal Recruiting Coordinator at Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP and Member of the Career Advancement and Management Committee, December 2012.