Why Pro Bono Lawyers Work For Free?

What Is Pro Bono?

Pro bono is the shorthand of a Latin phrase "pro bono publico", and it means "for the public good" in English. Unlike traditional volunteering, pro bono requires the service providers to master specific skills of professionals. In the legal field, the term is generally used to indicate legal help for free provided by lawyers to those who cannot afford it. 

What Kind Of Attorneys Provide Pro Bono Work?

According to the American Bar Association’s rules, EVERY attorney is legally obligated to engage in pro bono work in the ways as follows. 

1. Attorneys should render a majority of 50 hours of pro bono legal services per year to:

  • people with limited means, including the elderly, children, low-income people, and the unemployed

  • civic, charitable, religious, governmental, and educational organizations committed to helping people with limited means

2. Attorneys should provide additional services by:

  • Providing support and free or low-cost legal assistance to people, groups, or organizations committed to protect or secure civil rights, liberties, or public rights.

  • Delivering free or low-cost legal services to educational, charitable, religious, civic, governmental, and community organizations in matters involving the furtherance of their organizational goals, if the organizations are lack of fiscal budget funds.

  • Participating in activities aiming to improve the law, legal system, or legal profession

American Bar Association estimates that over 40 percent of U.S. households are low and moderate-income segments, who might need affordable pro bono services when facing legal cases. However, only 20 percent of them get helped by legal help for free.

Why Do Pro Bono Attorneys Work For Free?

Based on the character of pro bono work, attorneys won’t earn any money from their clients or any other organizations. Then why will those professionals take up their valuable time and effort to work for free? Well, most attorneys provide pro bono service for purposes as follows.

1. Publicity

There are some legal cases to which society pays a lot of attention, and a number of attorneys are willing to take up the arguments for free. For handling eye-catching cases at no cost will make them famous as well, which can be regarded as a publicity stunt.

2. Sympathy & Justice

When society confers the privilege to practice law on a lawyer, he or she accepts the responsibility to promote justice and to make justice equally accessible to all people. Sometimes attorneys have sympathy for the people they are defending, and they want to assist their helpless clients in accessing justice without going bankrupt. So they’re willing to provide legal help at a lower cost or even for free. 

3. Experience

Younger and newer lawyers, including students in law schools, can get valuable hands-on experience from pro bono work. It can also help attorneys develop professionalism and an understanding of the lawyer’s responsibility to the community.

4. Court order

By the Sixth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution guaranteeing the rights of criminal defendants, any citizen shall enjoy the right to a lawyer regardless of their financial situations. Therefore, if an individual with limited means can’t find a lawyer to provide legal help for free, the court will step in and require attorneys to take certain cases for the one who is unable to pay.


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