Pro Bono is a Latin phrase that means “for the public good“. It refers to services and assistance that professionals provide at a discount or for free to nonprofit organizations, charity groups, or individual clients who may not afford these services. The desire to benefit society and fulfill ethical responsibilities motivates pro bono work. Professionals can do pro bono work in different sectors, such as finance, legal, medicine, and consulting.
This article will show you the benefits and tips of doing pro bono work and how to get involved in it.
Benefits and Tips of pro bono work
Pro bono work is a term that means providing professional services for free or at a reduced cost to people or organizations that cannot afford them. Unpaid work can have many benefits and tips for both the service providers and the service recipients. Here are some of them:
For the service providers, pro bono work can help them improve their skills, expand their network, and fulfill their values. They can work on different and challenging projects that can enhance their knowledge and experience. They can also connect with new clients and partners that can boost their reputation and career opportunities. Moreover, they can make a positive impact on society and contribute to the public good.
For the service recipients, pro bono work can help them access high-quality professional services that they may otherwise not be able to afford or obtain. They can improve their organizational capacity and performance by receiving expert guidance and support. They can also increase their social impact and sustainability by addressing their challenges and opportunities.
For the service providers, unpaid work requires identifying their skills and interests and matching them with the needs and expectations of the service recipients. They should communicate clearly and respectfully with the service recipients and establish mutual trust and understanding. They should also manage their time and resources effectively and deliver their services within the agreed scope and deadline.
For the service recipients, unpaid work requires defining their goals and objectives and articulating them clearly to the service providers. They should provide feedback and appreciation to the service providers and acknowledge their contributions. They should also implement the recommendations and solutions provided by the service providers and monitor their outcomes.
How Someone Can Get Involved in Pro Bono
To get involved and use your skills and expertise to help people or organizations that need legal assistance, you can explore many ways of unpaid work. Here are some steps you can take to start your pro bono journey:
- Identify your area of interest and expertise. You can choose a cause or a sector that you are passionate about, such as human rights, immigration, environment, or education. You can also choose a type of service that you can offer, such as research, drafting, advocacy, or consulting.
- Find a suitable pro bono opportunity. You can use online platforms or organizations that match pro bono volunteers with clients or projects, such as Taproot, Catchafire, or Voolla. You can also contact local legal services agencies or bar associations that can connect you with free opportunities in your area.
- Apply for the pro bono opportunity. Submit your resume, portfolio, and cover letter explaining why you are interested in the pro bono work and what skills and experience you can bring to the table. You may also need to go through an interview process with the client or the organization.
- Commit to the pro bono work. Once you are accepted for this opportunity, you should communicate clearly and respectfully with the client or the organization and establish mutual trust and understanding. You should also manage your time and resources effectively and deliver your services within the agreed scope and deadline.
Examples of Pro Bono Cases in the USA
Pro bono cases are cases where lawyers provide legal services for free or at a low cost to people or organizations that cannot afford them. These cases can cover various areas of law, such as immigration, civil rights, disability, veterans, and children. Different organizations, referral services, and individual attorneys have handled many pro bono cases in the USA. Here are some of them:
In 1770, John Adams, who later became the second American president, defended the British soldiers who were accused of killing five Americans in the Boston Massacre. He did this because no other lawyer was willing to represent them. He won the case and proved his commitment to justice and the rule of law.
In 2006, Humberto Fernandez-Vargas, a Mexican citizen who had illegally re-entered the country in 1982 and lived there for over 20 years, was deported by the government. He challenged his deportation in court with the help of pro bono lawyers from a law firm and a non-profit organization. They argued that a new law that made his re-entry a ground for deportation should not apply retroactively to him. The case reached the U.S. Supreme Court, but unfortunately, he lost by a 5-4 vote.
In 2017, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and other pro bono lawyers filed a lawsuit against the city of Gardendale, Alabama, for attempting to secede from the county school system and create its own racially segregated school district. They argued that this violated a decades-old court order that required desegregation of schools in the county. A federal judge heard the case and blocked Gardendale’s secession from proceeding because racial discrimination motivated this. The case is still pending as Gardendale appeals the decision.
Pro bono work can be rewarding and beneficial for both you and the people or organizations you serve. It can help you improve your skills, expand your network, and fulfill your values. It can also help them access high-quality legal services, improve their capacity and performance, and increase their social impact.