Pro Bono

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Pro Bono

Short for pro bono publico [Latin, For the public good]. The designation given to the free legal work done by an attorney for indigent clients and religious, charitable, and other nonprofit entities.

As members of a profession, lawyers are bound by their ethical rules to charge reasonable rates for their services and to serve the public interest by providing free legal service to indigent persons or to religious, charitable, or other non-profit groups. A lawyer's free legal service to these types of clients is designated as pro bono service.

Lawyers have always donated a portion of their time to pro bono work, but in the United States the demand for legal services from people who cannot afford to hire an attorney has grown since the 1960s. Lawyers previously donated time on an ad hoc basis. The establishment of legal aid organizations to serve indigent persons in the 1960s changed the way attorneys obtained pro bono work. Legal aid attorneys, who were unable to satisfy all the legal needs of poor people, created programs to recruit private attorneys willing to donate some of their time. These programs recruit attorneys and then train them to handle common types of cases.

The American Bar Association (ABA) has become a national leader in the effort to enhance pro bono legal services. The ABA Center for Pro Bono assists ABA members and the legal community in developing and supporting effective pro bono legal services in civil matters as part of the profession's effort to ensure access to Legal Representation and the justice system. The center helps create, design, and implement pro bono programs. It sponsors an annual conference for bar leaders, pro bono program managers, legal service staff, and others involved in the delivery of pro bono legal services to poor people.

State and local bar associations also assist in the creation and maintenance of pro bono programs. Despite these efforts, the need for legal services outstrips the pro bono services provided. State court systems have explored ways to get more lawyers involved in donating their time and skills. In Minnesota, for example, the Rules of Professional Conduct for lawyers state, "A lawyer should aspire to render at least 50 hours of pro bono publico legal services per year" (rule 6.1).

Further readings

Coulter, Dolores M. 2001. "The Pro Bono Priority." Michigan Bar Journal 80 (September).

Minnesota Rules of Court. 1996. St. Paul, Minn.: West.

pro bono

adj. short for pro bono publico, Latin "for the public good," legal work performed by lawyers without pay to help people with legal problems and limited or no funds, or provide legal assistance to organizations involved in social causes such as the environmental, consumers, minorities, youth, battered women and education organizations and charities.

References in periodicals archive ?
The Pro Bono Publico Awards honor individuals or organizations in the legal community that enhance the human dignity of others by improving or delivering volunteer legal services to the poor or disadvantaged.
For more information on the Adams Pro Bono Publico Awards, visit: http://www.
will host the Pro Bono Publico Awards luncheon, and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown is the invited keynote speaker.
The Pro Bono Publico Awards program seeks to identify and honor individual lawyers and small and large law firms, government attorney offices, corporate law departments and other institutions in the legal profession that have enhanced the human dignity of others by improving or delivering volunteer legal services to our nation's poor and disadvantaged.
The Pro Bono Publico Award program seeks to honor legal professionals who have enhanced the human dignity of others by improving or delivering volunteer legal services to our nation's poor and disadvantaged.
NEW YORK -- Four attorneys from Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP, one of the world's leading international law firms, were honored as recipients of the 2009 Pro Bono Publico Awards for outstanding service to The Legal Aid Society and its clients.
The firm consistently ranks among the top firms in its commitment to pro bono work and this year was named a recipient of the American Bar Association's Pro Bono Publico Award.
This year the Pro Bono Publico Award went to William O'Neil, a retired lawyer who, since volunteering at legal aid two years ago, has counseled and represented more than 100 local residents who could not afford an attorney.
LOS ANGELES -- Bet Tzedek Legal Services, a respected poverty law firm serving Los Angeles County's low-income, elderly and disabled, today announced that the Holocaust Survivor Justice Network--its international initiative established to assist Holocaust survivors in obtaining reparation payments from the German government--is a recipient of the 2009 American Bar Association Pro Bono Publico Award, the profession's highest recognition for pro bono legal work.
Christie Pro Bono Publico Award is not given out every year.
The University of Florida law school has been selected as the 1999-2000 recipient of the Pro Bono Publico Award, a national award recognizing excellence in furthering public service in the legal profession.
I can think of no better way to utilize my experience, skills and passion than to continue the growth of the Levin Center's work to inspire the next generation, instill the values of pro bono publico, and engage with leaders in the field to both make the experience more relevant to our students and to increase the law school's influence in the field of service.