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 ?
Levin, Pro Bono Publico, supra note 232, at 729-730 (citing Robert Granfield, Institutionalizing Public Service in Law School: Results on the Impact of Mandatory Pro Bono Programs, 54 BUFF.
Named in honor of John Adams and John Quincy Adams, the Adams Pro Bono Publico Awards recognize individual lawyers, small and large firms, government attorney offices, corporate law departments, and other institutions in the legal profession in Massachusetts that have enhanced the human dignity of others by improving or delivering volunteer legal services to the poor and disadvantaged.
Recently Mintz Levin received the prestigious ABA Pro Bono Publico Award in recognition of the firm's "outstanding commitment to volunteer legal services" in connection with work leading to the passage of a landmark sexual assault, stalking and harassment law in Massachusetts.
Proskauer has been recognized by The Legal Aid Society with a 2015 Pro Bono Publico Award.
The program -- Holocaust Survivors Justice Network -- was a 2009 recipient of the American Bar Association's Pro Bono Publico award, among other national honors.
International law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has been honored by the Legal Aid Society, the oldest and largest not-for-profit legal services organization in the US, at its 2013 Pro Bono Publico Awards.
Blackwell of Orlando received the ABA's Pro Bono Publico Award for service.
will receive the American Bar Association's (ABA) prestigious Pro Bono Publico Award in recognition of the firm's "outstanding commitment to volunteer legal services" in connection with work leading to the passage of a landmark sexual assault, stalking and harassment law in Massachusetts.
Legal Aid honored Sosa and the Hughes Hubbard team with a Pro Bono Publico Award for their work.
The recipient of the American Bar Association's 2009 Pro Bono Publico Award, the firm has also been recognized by The American Lawyer, the Pro Bono Institute, the Lawyers Alliance, the Law Society of England and Wales, among others.
That is why the national legal community has set aside a week to honor and encourage our work in the field of pro bono publico.
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.