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What is Pro Bono?

 

What is pro bono?
The term “pro bono” comes from the Latin phrase pro bono publico that means for the public good. In legal field, it is commonly used to describe legal work or services performed voluntarily and free of to people or organizations who could not otherwise afford legal assistance.

 

Are North Carolina attorneys required to provide pro bono service?
In 2010, the North Carolina State Bar adopted Rule 6.1, Voluntary Pro Bono Publico Service, which states in part: “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.” Although there is no statewide requirement that attorneys do pro bono, Comment 1 of Rule 6.1 states, “[t]he North Carolina State Bar urges all lawyers to provide a minimum of 50 hours of pro bono services annually.”

 

 

My client didn’t pay me. Since I helped them for free, isn’t that pro bono?
Comment 4 of Rule 6.1 states, “Because service must be provided without fee or expectation of fee, the intent of the lawyer to render free legal services is essential for the work performed to fall within the meaning of [pro bono]. Accordingly, services rendered cannot be considered pro bono if an anticipated fee is uncollected. . .” Legal services written off as a bad debt or a case in which an attorney cannot collect a fee do not qualify as pro bono. 

 

 

What is the difference between community service and pro bono service?
Pro bono service principally involves the provision of free legal services or activities that improve the law or legal system. Attorneys who volunteer with a nonprofit, church, or school or serve on a nonprofit’s board are providing community or public service, not pro bono service, unless they provide free legal assistance as part of their activities. See Rule 6.1 definition.

 

If I provide legal help to a nonprofit organization or community group, does it count as pro bono service?
Pro bono legal services to the poor are not limited to individuals. Providing free legal assistance to a charitable, religious, or educational organization, whose overall mission and activities are designed primarily to address the needs of the poor, counts as pro bono service.

 

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