Pro bono publico (English: For the public good; usually shortened to pro bono) is a Latin phrase for professional work undertaken voluntarily and without payment. It is service that uses specific skills of professionals to provide services to those who are unable to afford them.
Many of you first learned the importance of providing pro bono services in law school. Once in private practice, you continued the practice offering no or low-fee service to non-profits or low-income consumers and donating to civil legal aid organizations. Your efforts benefited your professional development, the public, and the profession.
Offering Pro Bono Benefits the Lawyer
- It expands your client base as pro bono clients may refer clients able to pay for your services.
- It enhances your reputation in the firm, the profession, and the general public.
- You can receive training in many areas of practice in exchange for accepting a pro bono referral from a civil legal aid provider.
- You can improve your communication skills as you work with clients from diverse backgrounds.
Pro Bono Benefits the Public
Both individuals and non-profit organizations receive legal assistance from lawyers offering pro bono services. The community is improved as lawyers fight injustices for those needing help.
The profession is enhanced as more attorneys take on the legal problems of those less fortunate. Lawyers can be intimidating to consumers. Offering free services helps improve the reputation of all lawyers.
Your State Bar is aware of the importance of pro bono services. It encourages and recognizes participation in the following ways:
- For the first time, the SBM A Lawyer Helps Pro Bono Honor Roll, which recognizes work performed in 2018, will recognize solo practitioners and individual attorneys who provided 30+, 50+, and 100+ hours of qualifying pro bono service. Firms and corporations will also be recognized for qualifying pro bono legal services provided in 2018. The deadline to apply is March 20, and the Honor Roll will be published in late April. The online application and more information can be found at the link above.
- You can support civil legal aid to the poor by giving to the Access to Justice Campaign. The funds are used to increase resources for fifteen regional and statewide civil legal aid programs. The ATJ Campaign recognizes the financial contributions of law firms, corporate legal departments, and individual attorneys supporting access to justice. The list will be published in early April.
- The A Lawyer Helps website has been redesigned. It is now possible for lawyers who are looking for pro bono service opportunities or want to donate to the ATJ Fund to find that information and more in one convenient location. Potential clients can search on the website for legal resources by county and issue.
For more information about the Pro Bono Honor Roll, contact SBM Pro Bono Service & Justice Initiatives Counsel Robert Mathis, at firstname.lastname@example.org. And for more information about the ATJ Campaign, contact Laura Musachio at email@example.com.
Pro bono activities deserve a spot in your business development plans. Your service will attract new clients, add training in a new area of practice, enhance your reputation among your peers, and help improve the public’s impression of the profession.
After years practicing law, Roberta Gubbins served as editor of the Ingham County Legal News. Since leaving the paper, she provides legal content writing for lawyers. She is editor of The Mentor, the SBM Master Lawyers newsletter. Writing as Alexandra Hawthorne, she published a cozy mystery, Murder One in Midvale Corners.
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