The term “pro bono” is something you might hear on television shows dealing with various professional jobs like doctors and lawyers. People speak of doing a job “pro bono,” and most of us understand that term to mean “free.” The full term is pro bono public, which is a Latin phrase that means “for the good of the people.”
In special cases, whether it is simply out of a feeling of compassion or other motives, a professional may perform a service and not charge the client anything for their professional services. I have always noticed that the term seems most used in movies and shows, when lawyers are touched by a case, and wish to fight for a client who cannot afford the expert services of the attorney. I was not actually aware that there was a mandate requiring lawyers to provide a set amount of pro bono services each year, so it makes sense that we hear the term more frequently when it comes to legal service areas.
According to one study by the American Bar Association, about 40% of lower to medium income households experience some form of legal problems annually. Yet only about 20% of those needs are being met by the collective civil aid efforts.
Under the ABA Model Rule 6.1, it is actually a requirement for lawyers to perform a minimum number of pro bono hours annually.
Every lawyer has a professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay. A lawyer should aspire to render at least (50) hours of pro bono publico legal services per year.
So the standard expected amount of time annually is set at 50 hours of pro bono work; which turns out to be about a week of free work for them. This number can be lower in some places:
States, however, may decide to choose a higher or lower number of hours of annual service (which may be expressed as a percentage of a lawyer's professional time) depending upon local needs and local conditions.
If you are in the legal field, during these tough economic times for everyone, providing some pro bono assistance here and there is greatly needed. Doing so is also a great way to serve the public while still acquiring and developing additional legal skills – skills that can possibly be leveraged in seeking a new position or advancement. It is always a great addition to your resume, and can lead to additional recognition from your legal community.
If you are a person in desperate need of legal services and cannot afford them, you may wish to seek out pro bono opportunities in your area by reviewing the American Bar Association’s National Pro Bono Opportunities Guide or visit the site probono.net.