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Pro bono publico

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 or at a reduced fee as a public service. It is common in the legal profession and is increasingly seen in architecture, marketing, medicine, technology, and strategy consulting firms. Pro bono service, unlike traditional volunteerism, uses the specific skills of professionals to provide services to those who are unable to afford them.

Pro Bono Publico is also used in the United Kingdom to describe the central motivation of large organizations such as the National Health Service, and various NGOs, which exist "for the public good", rather than for shareholder profit.

Pro bono legal counsel

Pro bono legal counsel may assist an individual or group on a legal case by filing government applications or petitions. A judge may occasionally determine that the loser should compensate a winning pro bono counsel.

United Kingdom

Since 2002, many UK law firms and law schools have celebrated an annual Pro Bono Week, which encourages solicitors and barristers to offer pro bono services and increases general awareness of pro bono service.[1][2] LawWorks (the operating name for the Solicitors Pro Bono Group) is a national charity that works with solicitors and law students, encouraging and supporting them in carrying out legal pro bono work. It also acts as a clearing house for pro bono casework. Individuals and community groups may apply to the charity for free legal advice and mediation, where they could not otherwise afford to pay and are not entitled to legal aid.[3] Advocates for International Development, which exclusively brokers international pro bono contributing towards the Millennium Development Goals operates from a London base.[4]

Republic of Korea

Korean lawyers are required to do at least 30 hours of pro bono work (the local bar associations can reduce the hours to 20). Those who have a good reason not to fulfill the requirement may pay 20,000–30,000 per hour instead.[5]

United States

Lawyers in the United States are recommended under American Bar Association (ABA) ethical rules to contribute at least fifty hours of pro bono service per year(s).[6] Some state bar associations, however, may recommend fewer hours. Rule 6.1 of the New York Rules of Professional Conduct strongly encourages lawyers to to aspire to provide at least 50 hours of pro bono service each year and quantifies the minimal financial contributions that lawyers should aspire to make to organizations providing legal services to the poor and underserved. [7]

The Chief Judge of New York has also instituted a requirement that applicants who plan to be admitted in 2015 and onward must complete fifty hours of pro bono service in order to qualify.)[8] And that all attorneys who register must report their voluntary pro bono hours and/or voluntary contributions. [9]

The ABA has conducted three national surveys of pro bono service: one released in August 2005,[10] the second in February 2009.[11] and the third in March 2013 [12]

The ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service and its project, the Center for Pro Bono, are a national source of information, resources and assistance to support, facilitate, and expand the delivery of pro bono legal help.[13] The ABA Standing Committee also sponsors Pro Bono Week during the week of October 21–27.[14][15] The ABA Standing Committee on Legal Assistance for Military Personnel and Section of Litigation jointly sponsor the ABA Military Pro Bono Project, which delivers pro bono legal assistance to enlisted, active-duty military personnel.[16]

In an October 2007 press conference reported in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, the law student group Building a Better Legal Profession released its first annual ranking of top law firms by average billable hours, pro bono participation, and demographic diversity.[17][18] The report found that most large firms fall short of their pro bono targets.[19] The group has sent the information to top law schools around the country, encouraging students to take this data into account when choosing where to work after graduation.[20]

Pro bono outside the legal sector


Corporate pro bono efforts generally focus on building the capacity of local nonprofits or mentoring local businesses. There are many models that businesses use and tailor to their specific strengths. They may loan employees, provide coaching & mentoring, complete a service marathon, create standardized team projects, engage in open-ended outsourcing, provide sector-wise solutions, perform general contracting, or work on a signature issue.

Loaned employee

In this model companies are effectively donating a fully trained and paid-for employee to the non-profit. Employees apply for the coveted opportunity to pursue a pro bono interest by lending their knowledge and experience. They use their workplace skills in a hands-on and/or consulting role to build the partner nonprofit's capacity.

Functional coaching & mentoring

Employees match up with their nonprofit peers, form a relationship, and share functional expertise. They may connect them with assets for growth or revise their business models. For commodities and service-based businesses, coaching is a fresh way for them to do philanthropy. It builds a stronger market for the businesses by strengthening the local economy and cultivates important skills for the service providers and recipients.


A company mobilizes human capital, usually employees, on a pro bono project within a short, predetermined timeframe, usually 24 hours, to deliver a mass volume of deliverables. This is a popular model for marketing and communications firms who have the ability to create promotional materials and develop PR plans as needed.

Standardized team projects

Individuals are placed on teams, each with specific roles and responsibilities. Each project is scoped and structured around a standard deliverable based on the needs of the nonprofit partners. Team projects are meant as fun-team building activities or as highly competitive competitions to examine leadership abilities in employees.

Open-ended outsourcing

A company makes its services available to a specific number of nonprofit organizations on an ongoing, as needed basis. Volunteers act in a mentor capacity to fill a non-profit’s need. Often employees use workplace skills to provide services that non-profits do not have the resources to fund.

Sector-wide solutions

A company creates a deliverable pro bono resource that can be applicable to all nonprofits across the sector. Similar to creating products for consumers, this pro bono model advocates creating products that will be distributed for free or at a greatly reduced cost. Often these are software or other tech services.

General contracting

An entity coordinates and oversees internal and external resources, promoting cross-sector collaboration to address a specific social problem. Contracting is generally done in an ad-hoc capacity and by intermediary organizations such as Taproot Foundation, Common Impact, or Points of Light.

Signature issue

Signature issues combine corporate assets with pro bono work to fight social problems. This is as much a corporate branding initiative as it is an altruistic endeavor. Pro bono volunteers that come en masse from a company become associated with that cause while combating social issues.

See also


External links

  • American Bar Association's Center for Pro Bono Resources for pro bono delivery and state-by-state listing of pro bono programs
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