I wanted to say a few words about my recent “pro bono” legal work after celebrating “National Pro Bono Week” (October 21-27) several weeks ago. “Pro bono” is shorthand for the Latin phrase “Pro bono publico”, meaning “for the public good”. It’s work undertaken voluntarily and without payment, or at a reduced fee, as a public service.

Pro bono service, unlike traditional volunteerism, uses the specific skills of professionals to provide services to those who are unable to afford them. Such work, I’m proud to say, is most commonly associated with the legal profession. [1]

Our state bar ethics rules say that lawyers “should aspire to provide at least twenty hours of pro bono legal services each year to poor persons” and “contribute financially to organizations that provide legal services to poor persons”. However, this is a voluntary goal, unlike most other ethics rules and Court regulation of professional obligations. [2]

While pro bono work doesn’t pay the bills, it is still one of the most satisfying aspects of being a lawyer. The inherent “good karma” of helping those unable to afford legal representation, and the gratitude they and their families express is, in the words of the credit card ad, “priceless”.

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