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. The term traditionally referred to provision of legal services by legal professionals for people who are unable to afford them. More recently, the term is used to describe specialist services provided by any professional free of charge to an individual or community.


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.


In Japan, the number of registered NPO Service Grants, which coordinates team-type pro bono programs, has increased tenfold between 2010 and 2020, and has supported more than 1,000 projects. In addition, the introduction of pro bono is gaining attention as an opportunity to promote citizen participation in corporate social responsibility (CSR) and human resource development in companies, and to solve problems in community development in local governments. The current authorized NPO, Service Grant Japan, was one of the first to take notice of the possibilities of such pro bono, bring that know-how back to Japan, and start offering a pro bono program that matches the country. Since its launch in 2005, the number of people, organizations, and companies engaged in pro bono activities in Japan has steadily increased. At the same time, many organizations coordinating pro bono activities have been established in countries other than Japan. more have joined. As a member of this "Global Pro Bono Network," the certified NPO Service Grant is actively participating in networking and collaboration with various parts of the world. The NPO has a volunteer base with over 7,500 registered professionals (pro bono workers), and successfully participate in more than 180 projects annually.[1]

As in the United States, some bar associations in Japan set mandatory working hours for public interest activities, and are sometimes regarded as pro bono activities. Certified public accountants are also gaining recognition as a result of pioneering efforts by PwC Aarata LLC. Small and medium-sized enterprise management consultants are also active in a wide range of activities, such as traveling to Tohoku with lunch boxes and supporting the reconstruction of local businesses and shopping districts, mainly for Tohoku reconstruction support activities.

The Netherlands

In the Netherlands, legal services offered without payment are known as pro deo.[2][3]


In late 1974, former Philippine Senator Jose W. Diokno was released from prison as a political detainee. He set out as a litigation lawyer to devise a means to combat the Marcos dictatorship and introduced the term "developmental legal aid", which involved lawyers providing pro bono legal services but also providing allowances to their clients, who were normally the urban poor, informal settlers, farmers, and victims of Martial law under Ferdinand Marcos. Diokno set up the Free Legal Assistance Group or FLAG, which is the oldest human rights organization in the country. During martial law FLAG has handled most of the human rights cases against the military police and the administration.[4] Eventually the concept of developmental legal aid has grown and fresh lawyers are required to conduct part-time free legal aid for a considerable amount of time, otherwise called the Community Legal Aid Service (CLAS) Rule.[5] Many developmental legal services are provided by most law firms and NGOs in the Philippines.

South Korea

South Korean lawyers are required to complete at least 30 hours of pro bono work per year; however, the local bar associations can reduce this requirement to 20 hours per year. Those who have a good reason not to fulfill the requirement may pay to a pro bono fund 20,000–30,000 (US$17–26) per hour instead.[6]

United Kingdom

Since 2003, 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.[7][8] 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.[9] Advocates for International Development, which exclusively brokers international pro bono contributing towards the Sustainable Development Goals, operates from a London base.[10] Many barristers offer pro bono services as a direct response the Legal Aid cuts brought by LASPO 2012, from which they make no profit.[11] The Bar Council has revealed that just under a quarter of the bar offer pro bono; this is 3,486 barristers. Additionally, in 2018, the Bar contributed almost 11,000 hours of pro bono work.[12] In the United Kingdom, a collaboration between local intellectual property organizations called IP Pro Bono offers intellectual property advice and legal support for claimants and defendants in intellectual property disputes.[13]

United States

Lawyers in the United States are recommended under American Bar Association (ABA) ethical rules to contribute at least 50 hours of pro bono service per year.[14] Some state bar associations, however, may recommend fewer hours. Rule 6.1 of the New York Rules of Professional Conduct strongly encourages lawyers 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.[15] In contrast, other states, such as Illinois, do not have recommended hours, yet require annual disclosure of voluntary pro bono hours and contributions made to pro bono organizations.[16] The Chief Judge of New York has also instituted a requirement that applicants who plan to be admitted in 2015 and onward must complete 50 hours of pro bono service in order to qualify.[17] All attorneys who register must report their voluntary pro bono hours or voluntary contributions.[18]

The ABA has conducted four national surveys of pro bono service: one released in August 2005,[19] the second in February 2009,[20] the third in March 2013[21] and the fourth in April 2018.[22]

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.[23] The ABA Standing Committee also sponsors Pro Bono Week during the week of 23–29 October.[24][25] 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.[26]

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.[27][28] The report found that most large firms fall short of their pro bono targets.[29] 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.[30]

The American Lawyer compiles, from among its 200 top-rated law firms, those that contributed the most pro bono hours of service during the previous calendar year, publishing the list annually.[31][32] In the United States, the Patent Pro Bono Program is a nationwide network of independently operated regional programs that matches volunteer patent professionals with financially under-resourced inventors and small businesses for the purpose of securing patent protection.[33]


Traditionally architects conduct altruistic work individually or as organisations such as Architecture Sans Frontières International or its various national alternatives or partners, assisting peace-making and reconstruction efforts after conflict or disaster, when much of the housing, hospital, educational, transport, civic and other infrastructure has been destroyed or damaged.[34] More recently, pro bono work proper, as services provided to individuals or organisations free of charge directly by architects or architectural firms, is becoming increasingly common. Services are provided either independently or through emerging organisations.[35][36]

The first national organisation for promotion and provisioning of pro bono architectural services, Architects Assist, was established in Australia in 2020,[37][38] on the premise that "like healthcare and legal representation, sustainable and resilient architecture is not a luxury. It is a condition of our future survival and a human right."[39]


Architects Assist is a national organisation of Australian architects and other built environment professionals providing pro bono services to individuals or organisations affected by natural disasters, such as bushfires or floods, or other adverse circumstances. The organisation operates under the Australian Institute of Architects.[38]


Architekti Pro Bono is an initiative of Czech architects run by the Czech Chamber of Architects.[40]

United States

The American Institute of Architects encourages its members to provide pro bono services as part their contributions to the aspirations of the profession and service to society.[41]

Other uses


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 and 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.[42]

In intellectual property

To help make services related to intellectual property (IP) more accessible, a number of organizations have created pro bono initiatives. These organizations offer support from legal professionals at no cost. The services usually cover the professional fees associated with the related services, but no official fees due to a cost to intellectual property offices.[43]

Established in 2015, the Inventor Assistance Program helps inventors navigate the patent system in their own country and a number of other jurisdictions at no cost. Individual inventors and enterprise must be from a participating country and meet certain eligibility criteria.[44] Applicants apply via the IAP Online Platform.[45][46] Current participating countries include Colombia,[47]  Chile,[48] Ecuador, Morocco,[49] Peru,[50] the Philippines,[51] and South Africa.[52] The program is operated by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). In 2020, the WIPO GREEN reinstated their pro bono legal advice program.[53][54]

The Inter-American Association of Intellectual Property offers pro bono services related to intellectual property.[55][56] Services include applications for copyright, patent, and trademarks, academic training, advice on IP related contracts, and IP related disputes.[57]

The International Trademark Association matches eligible clients facing trademark issues with member attorneys who volunteer to provide services free of charge.[58] The program initially accepted applications in the United States and Latin America and later expanded globally.[58]

The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) offers free personalized IP support to small businesses for EU based SMEs.[59] The work is not limited to a specific field of IP but covers virtually all IP aspects and services, including help in filing patents, trade marks, design applications, copyright, plant varieties, geographical indications, trade secrets and domain names, as well as licensing, enforcement, franchising, tech transfer of IP rights or any "other IP matters and disputes".[60]

See also


  1. ^ "Global Pro Bono Network - Service Grant Japan". Global Pro Bono Network. Retrieved 11 June 2023.
  2. ^ "Ex-agent die veroordeeld is voor dood George Floyd gaat in beroep". (in Dutch). 24 September 2021. Retrieved 23 April 2022.
  3. ^ "Spong respecteert vonnis in proces Decembermoorden". (in Dutch). 19 October 2007. Retrieved 23 April 2022.
  4. ^ Gavilan, Jodesz (21 September 2017). "No cause more worthy: Ka Pepe Diokno's fight for human rights". Retrieved 14 October 2020.
  5. ^ Te, Theodore (20 December 2018). "ANALYSIS-Deep Dive, Community legal aid service: Too much, too soon?". Retrieved 15 October 2020.
  6. ^ Korean Bar Association Rule on Pro Bono Article 3
  7. ^ Dyer, Clare. "Win or lose, no fee: pro bono week promotes free legal services." Pro Bono work. The Guardian. 6 June 2007. Retrieved 2 June 2007.
  8. ^ Dowell, Katy. "Attorney General sets up global pro bono database." Pro bono week. The Lawyer.17 November 2008. Retrieved 4 December 2008.
  9. ^ "LawWorks - The Solicitors Pro Bono Group - Pro Bono Support across England and Wales provided by solicitors, mediators and law students". Retrieved 15 October 2012.
  10. ^ "A4ID". Retrieved 19 August 2013.
  11. ^ The Secret Barrister. Picador. 4 April 2019. ISBN 978-1509841141.
  12. ^ "Pro bono".
  13. ^ "My Site". Retrieved 31 December 2021.
  14. ^ "ABA Model Rule 6.1 Voluntary Pro Bono Service." Pro Bono and Public Service. Retrieved 2 June 2007.
  15. ^ "Rules of Professional Conduct (22 NYCRR Part 1200)" (PDF).
  16. ^ See Illinois Supreme Court Rule 756(f).
  17. ^ "Pro Bono Bar Admission Requirements - NYCOURTS.GOV".
  18. ^ "Reporting Requirements - Attorney Registration - NYCOURTS.GOV".
  19. ^ "Supporting Justice: A Report on the Pro Bono Work of America's Lawyers" (PDF). Chicago, IL, USA: American Bar Association. 23 July 2008 [9 August 2005]. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 September 2018. Retrieved 15 October 2012.
  20. ^ "Supporting Justice II: A Report on the Pro Bono Work of America's Lawyers" (PDF). Chicago, IL, USA: American Bar Association. 6 February 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 September 2018. Retrieved 15 October 2012.
  21. ^ "Supporting Justice III: A Report on the Pro Bono Work of America's Lawyers" (PDF). Chicago, IL, USA: American Bar Association. 22 March 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 July 2019. Retrieved 22 March 2013.
  22. ^ "Supporting Justice: A Report on the Pro Bono Work of America's Lawyers (April 2018)" (PDF).
  23. ^ "Standing Committee / Pro Bono and Public Service". Chicago, IL, USA: American Bar Association. Retrieved 15 October 2012.
  24. ^ "ABA Recognizes Pro Bono Work by Lawyers in First National Celebration - News Release". 8 July 2009. Archived from the original on 15 October 2012. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  25. ^ Para, Kathy (21 September 2009). "Peyton proclaims 'Celebrate Pro Bono Week'". Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  26. ^ "Military Pro Bono Project". Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  27. ^ Efrati, Amir (10 October 2007), "You Say You Want a Big-Law Revolution, Take II", Wall Street Journal, New York, NY, USA: Dow Jones & Company (owned by News Corporation), archived from the original on 17 June 2015, retrieved 15 October 2012
  28. ^ Liptak, Adam (29 October 2007), "In Students' Eyes, Look-Alike Lawyers Don't Make the Grade", New York Times, retrieved 15 October 2012
  29. ^ Closed access icon Adcock, Thomas; Elinson, Zusha (19 October 2007), "Student Group Grades Firms on Diversity, Pro Bono Work", New York Law Journal, retrieved 15 October 2012 (subscription required)
  30. ^ Weinstein, Henry (11 October 2007), "Lack of diversity marks L.A. law - A survey finds an 'opportunity gap' for minorities and women at large firms in the area", Los Angeles Times, archived from the original on 22 April 2009, retrieved 15 October 2012
  31. ^ "The Biglaw Firms Where Lawyers Did The Most Pro Bono Work (2020)" by Staci Zaretsky, Above The Law, August 19, 2021. Retrieved November 14, 2021.
  32. ^ "The 2021 Pro Bono Scorecard: National Rankings" The American Lawyer, June 28, 2021. Retrieved November 14, 2021.
  33. ^ "Patent Pro Bono Program for independent inventors and small businesses". Retrieved 31 December 2021.
  34. ^ Charlesworth, Esther; Charlesworth, Esther Ruth (2006). Architects without frontiers: war, reconstruction and design responsibility (1. publ ed.). Amsterdam Heidelberg: Elsevier. ISBN 978-0-7506-6840-8.
  35. ^ "Leading Architects' Best Pro-Bono Projects Opening in 2019". Architectural Digest. 17 December 2018. Retrieved 30 October 2023.
  36. ^ MILLER, STEPHANI L. "Architects Remain Committed to Pro Bono Work".
  37. ^ "Australian architects offer free design services to bushfire victims". Dezeen. 7 January 2020. Retrieved 30 October 2023.
  38. ^ a b Nielsen, Duncan (8 January 2020). "Australian Architects Are Offering Free Design Services to Fire Victims". Dwell. Retrieved 28 October 2023.
  39. ^ "Jiri Lev". MPavilion. Retrieved 30 October 2023.
  40. ^ "Archiweb - Na pomoc obcím postiženým tornádem se na webu přihlásilo přes 50 architektů". Retrieved 28 October 2023.
  41. ^ American Institute of Architects (2008). "INSTITUTE GUIDELINES to Assist AIA Members, Firms and Components in Undertaking Pro Bono Service Activities" (PDF).
  42. ^ Kassi-Vivier, Yoann; Jennifer Pawlowski; Carol Guttery; Dima Mostovoy (17 January 2012). "Demonstrating the Business Value of Pro Bono Service" (PDF). Taproot Foundation and Pro Bono Lab. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 November 2012. Retrieved 13 February 2013.
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  45. ^ "Inventor Assistance Program (IAP) Online Platform". Retrieved 31 December 2021.
  46. ^ "The Inventor Assistance Program".
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  50. ^ "PAI Perú - Indecopi". Retrieved 31 December 2021.
  51. ^ "Republic of the Philippines Office of Intellectual Property Inventor Assistance Program".
  52. ^ "CIPC :: Inventor Assistance Program". Retrieved 31 December 2021.
  53. ^ "Pro Bono: Legal Services Through WIPO GREEN".
  54. ^ "WIPO GREEN: The Global Marketplace for Sustainable Technology". Retrieved 31 December 2021.
  55. ^ "ASIPI Pro Bono". Retrieved 2 December 2021.
  56. ^ "Home". ASIPI - Asociación Interamericana de la Propiedad Intelectual. 20 August 2019. Retrieved 31 December 2021.
  57. ^ "ASIPI Application for Pro Bono Services". Retrieved 2 December 2021.
  58. ^ a b "INTA Pro Bono Resources". Retrieved 2 December 2021.
  59. ^ "EUIPO Free personalized legal support". Retrieved 2 December 2021.
  60. ^ "The New EUIPO Pro Bono Programme". Retrieved 2 December 2021.

Further reading