Pro Bono Spotlight: Nia Doherty

Nia DohertyNia Doherty is a Senior Attorney Editor at Thomson Reuters, but her vibrant career of volunteer work is with the Advocates for Human Rights. As a volunteer, Doherty has worked on many projects over the last four years. Each new volunteer opportunity provides her with a deeper connection to the full scope of what volunteerism can do in the legal community.  

In 2021, right after the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban, the Advocates put out a call for volunteers to help with intake screenings for refugees. Jumping at the opportunity, Doherty began intake screenings for those arriving from Afghanistan.  

“Right away, I started doing two intake screenings a month for the Advocates, for six months. After all of those intake screenings, I felt like I had a fairly good handle on the legal issues people from Afghanistan have been facing, so I finally felt confident enough to take on a pro bono asylum case.” 

Often, the volunteer work we immerse ourselves in creates a domino effect. As we learn and discover more about the issues facing individuals with marginalized identities, we begin to see these issues all around us, not just in a bubble. After years of conducting intake screenings, Doherty transitioned into working on a pro bono asylum case for the past nine months.  

So, why does this work matter to Nia Doherty? Her years of exposure to these cases have shaped her understanding of what the legal field can do.  

“I was inspired to begin volunteering with the Advocates after witnessing the plight of refugees from Syria several years ago. It’s hard to imagine, but think about suddenly needing to leave your war-torn country with your family and just a few possessions you can carry with you. Imagine having to travel hundreds of miles to seek help, and then having to wait months or years to be able to leave. Imagine finally coming to the United States, but you do not speak the language, cannot get a job, and have no notion of what you should do next to be able to stay long-term with your family. A new arrival absolutely cannot navigate all those changes without legal help.” 

Doherty reminds us that pro bono work is a learning opportunity. When asked what she has learned through her volunteer practice, she answers, “I learned that leaving your comfort zone to help another family in need is an amazing experience. I feel like I was able to make a difference in the world, even if it was only helping one family with their asylum case.”  

Nia Doherty is an inspiration to many who want to get started on their volunteer journey. As she works to change the lives of those around her, she leaves us with this call to action. 

“The need is tremendous, and anything you can do is helpful. There are lots of volunteer opportunities out there, and you shouldn’t be afraid to not volunteer somewhere because you feel inexperienced.” 

Visit the Advocates for Human Rights for more information on how to get involved or visit our Pro Bono Opportunities page for information on how to make pro bono part of your practice.