David A. Mawhinney, K&L Gates

July 1, 2019

July 2019 Attorney of the Month

David A. Mawhinney, K&L Gates

KIND’s Boston office is pleased to recognize David A. Mawhinney of K&L Gates for our Pro Bono Attorney Spotlight. David provided the below reflections of his work with KIND and what he has learned from his clients and this experience.

Why did you take a KIND case?

By giving me a law license, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has allowed me to advocate for other people before the state.  With this privilege comes a responsibility to strengthen society by increasing the level of competent representation in our courts.  We learn this in law school, but pro bono legal work brings these concepts down to earth.  When clients thank me for the work I’m doing, I usually say something like “no problem, I’m just doing my job”.  But “job” isn’t quite right.  We aren’t exchanging money for services.  “I’m just being a citizen,” is probably closer to what I actually feel when my clients thank me.  That would be a weird sounding response, but there’s a valuable insight there, because they can be citizens too.  There’s no power hierarchy.  No matter how dependent my KIND clients might be on my ability to navigate the immigration system, I’m just doing my piece.  Without a Spanish translator I’d be utterly helpless.  I took on my KIND case out of some vague sense that I should probably do more pro bono work.  I wasn’t expecting to gain a deeper understanding of my profession and how I want to conduct myself.  It has fundamentally made be a better lawyer.

What have you learned from this experience or from your client(s)?

I’m lifted up by how many wonderful people are working full time in social services.  They keep me energized and inspired.

Do you have any advice for a new attorney taking their first pro bono case?

Ask for help.  Try not to let too much time go by without talking to your clients.  Find out what is going on in their lives and connect them to other social resources along the way.  A tremendous amount of what you do for a pro bono client comes by just being there, telling them that they don’t have to worry because you’ll worry for them.  It is important to make them feel reassured that someone is thinking about their problems and how to solve them.