In my former life, as an attorney who represented plaintiffs in medical negligence cases, I was a very busy associate. I never lacked for files that needed attention, and rarely had the time, or inclination to take on pro bono cases. I did not generate income to the firm by billable hours; my files were contingent fee cases. So, I needed to resolve cases - move them towards settlement or trial - in order to justify my existance.
Then, in my transition to a probate practice, and at the "prior firm," my income was based on billable hours, but the fees needed to be collected in order for me to get paid. Some months, I got paid once, some months not at all. I really lacked the time to become involved in pro bono work.
Things as a sole practioner are a bit different. I know that my practice is in its infancy, and that I need to find useful things to do as I generate clients and new business. So, I have taken on pro bono work. I have joined committees in local bar associations.
AND, not surprisingly, I see the benefits in doing both. Helping someone and not charging a fee makes me humble. Becoming active in the bar association committees makes me proud to be an attorney. Again, humbling.
While I don't often engage in hindsight, I really do wish that I had made the time to become active in the practice of law by taking on pro bono work earlier in my career, and I REALLY wish that I had taken advantage of the legal community opportunities avoided by membership and involvement in the bar associations. Because, it is good to be humbled and to appreciate what it means to be an attorney.