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What Does "pro Bono Publico" Mean?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 02 December 2016
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“Pro bono publico” refers to work provided by an experienced professional, in the field in which he or she is trained, without compensation. This is often provided by lawyers and other legal professionals to help those who may not be able to afford legal assistance, and is often seen as a way to improve the general public image of lawyers. There are agencies and groups that help connect people with lawyers willing to provide such services. “Pro bono publico” can also refer to uncompensated work provided by professionals outside of the legal trade.

Often simply shorted to “pro bono,” pro bono publico is a Latin phrase that means “for the public good.” This type of work is typically provided by professionals trained and experienced in practicing law, often lawyers who otherwise might charge a great deal of money for providing equivalent legal services. The lawyer takes on a case for someone who is unable to afford legal services, and provides assistance with legal matters to help that person. This sort of pro bono publico work can involve either criminal or civil cases, and once resolved the lawyer receives no compensation for the legal assistance provided.

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Pro bono publico work is often seen by lawyers and law firms as a way for legal professionals to create a more positive public image for themselves. Lawyers are often depicted as greedy or unscrupulous professionals by trade, and such work provides a means by which these depictions can be refuted with real world examples. Some law firms even require this type of work from their lawyers. While pro bono publico work is not necessarily legally required of lawyers in all areas, some regions have passed laws that require such work for lawyers who wish to maintain professional licensure.

There are a number of different groups and agencies that can assist people in finding a lawyer willing to work pro bono publico. This is different from the legal right, in some places, for all people to have representation in a criminal trial, as public defenders are still compensated for their work by the state or federal government. Pro bono publico work can also extend beyond the legal domain. Any professional who provides his or her services without compensation is performing such work, which differs from other volunteer work in that the person is using his or her professional skills rather than performing general activities.

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