Pro bono originated from America when a fight broke out between British soldiers and American colonists and there was a bloodbath where five Americans were killed. After this issue, John Adams decided to offer free legal representation and defended the British soldiers who were on trial for the killings, and he won. The American Bar Association provides that every lawyer should provide at least 50 hours of pro bono legal service per year according to Model Rule 6.1, and other countries should imitate this rule.
Pro bono cases take advantage of the skills of legal professionals to defend those who cannot pay for legal representation. This service is offered to minorities and other relevant populations that lack access to justice because they lack the funds. When lawyers make a constant effort to modify and refine the legal system through persuasion or solicitation, they render legal assistance to institutions that uphold social causes and create room for phone conversations to get quick legal opinions.
Pro Bono Week is set aside nationwide in October to appreciate and celebrate the thousands of legal practitioners that offer professional skills and expertise to ensure others get access to justice. The legal field has the obligation to render pro bono assistance written in its guiding principles, unlike other professions.
Lawyers can be very expensive. They are highly trained professionals with in-demand skills that make them able to charge increasingly high fees for their time, knowledge, and services.However, lawyers offer a portion of their time with a willingness to help the less privileged. as well as protecting the rights of disadvantaged groups, especially women and children in Nigeria. For instance, punuka solicitors' help reaffirmed the right of the girl child to inherit her father’s property in UKEJE V UKEJE and won at all levels.
In Nigeria, the majority of indigent people lack access to legal representation. This is where pro bono lawyers step in as it is available in different areas of law like defense of prisoners on death row, accused awaiting trials, those threatened with loss of their place of abode, widows seeking a grant in respect of their spouse's property or when seeking divorce, amongst others.
In early 2020, Law 360 published a report that lawyers from more than 100 firms contributed nearly 5 million hours to pro bono services. Pro bono includes a broad range of volunteering with a legal angle. The most important reason to do pro bono work is to provide benefit to the community that might otherwise not be available. The cost of skilled legal services is very high and beyond the reach of many.
Pro bono work gives lawyers the opportunity to make their clients feel empowered and hopeful in situations that they thought were dire and hopeless.
Many lawyers refuse to take up pro bono cases because it can be tedious and cumbersome without pay without paying attention to the multiple advantages they will tend to enjoy. There are numerous reasons why you should take up pro bono representation in your legal practice as a lawyer. They include:
1. It is an opportunity for a legal professional to appear in court and manage cases.
2. It is an avenue for networking.
3. To expand and amplify your career choices and horizons.
4. To exhibit your Expertise
5.It is an avenue for client interaction.
Builds Skills of Younger Lawyers
While we are talking about younger talent, pro bono helps young lawyers gain experience and build their skill sets. Tapping into younger lawyers’ energy and desire to help others is a win-win.
Enhances the Firm’s Reputation
Doing pro bono work is good for the firm’s image. Nowadays, many if not most awards and recognitions for law firms require information about pro bono activity. If your firm can’t say it provides this community service, the likelihood of receiving such honors takes a dive.
Provides a Sense of Self-Fulfillment
This may be the most-important aspect of pro bono. Pro bono work frequently reminds lawyers that they are practicing law to help people. The energy frequently carries over into their regular practices as well.
Encourages Diversity of Experience
Pro bono work frequently affords lawyers an opportunity to practice in an area of law that isn’t their usual focus. For example, when partnering with a legal aid clinic, a firm receives a list of cases that need lawyers and a corporate litigator might work on a benefits case; an IP lawyer might help someone with immigration status. Lawyers have the opportunity to brush up on law that they might not have considered since law school. Most find it rewarding, and sometimes even fun.
Provides an Opportunity for Collaboration
Along with opportunities to practice in areas outside their day-to-day work, pro bono cases also give lawyers the chance to work with other lawyers in their firms whom they may not otherwise know. That creates relationships and cross-firm opportunities in the future. It also helps lawyers build networks with other lawyers who are also working for legal aid foundations. That networking leads to business development, which also benefits the firm.
Appeals to New Recruits
When your firm is recruiting new lawyers, particularly from younger generations, those potential new members frequently ask about the firm’s commitment to pro bono. You want to have at least a somewhat-active pro bono program if you hope to attract new talent in the next few years.