Pro Bono Work as Lawyers
Legal services are often quite costly, and the fees act as a barrier to access and entry for many low-income individuals and families. However, given the assumptions made within the legal and judicial system in the US, receiving advice regarding your legal rights should not be restricted by your ability to pay. One of the ways the legal profession reduces barriers is through pro bono work. Pro bono is a Latin phrase that means for the good of the people or the public good. Pro bono services can be entirely free or at a reduced cost.
Unfortunately, in some cases, individuals cannot access substantive legal aid due to their low income and, subsequently, the inability to pay high legal fees. The legal system should not operate based on a person’s income, as then those with more money receive a far greater advantage. Therefore, pro bono work allows for certain people to access legal services whereas they otherwise could not.
Some lawyers choose to privately take on clients without charging them any fees or operate at a reduced rate. While this does happen, state bar associations, other legal associations, and law firms can have their own requirement for how many hours a lawyer has to do pro bono work. When the state bar requires the hours, the lawyers have to report the number of hours worked and the nature of the pro bono work. Therefore, pro bono cases can be private in the sense that the lawyer takes on the case, but not necessarily to fulfill a quota. A lawyer can also take on more pro bono cases if the state bar requires it for them to remain members.