The Wikipedia definition is:
"Pro bono publico (usually shortened to pro bono) is a phrase derived from Latin meaning "for the public good". The term is generally used to describe professional work undertaken voluntarily and without payment as a public service. It is common in the legal profession and is increasingly seen in marketing, technology, and strategy consulting firms.
Pro bono service, unlike traditional volunteerism, uses the specific skills of professionals to provide services to those who are unable to afford them."
A lot of it is very informal and given quietly by individual solicitors as and when they are able. As overheads of a legal practice are typically 70% of gross income, this involves not only giving up their own time and opportunity to make a living but also a contribution of these resources.
PILCH NSW is committed to protecting human rights, preventing abuses of power by the State, responding to emerging issues of public concern and helping build sustainable communities.
We Aim to Bridge the Justice Gap by:
Providing the community with access to pro bono legal representation and other professional service to enable pursuit of important legal and social issues that would otherwise go unaddressed.
Underlying the establishment of PILCH NSW is the commitment from lawyers that the provision of pro bono services is intrinsic to legal professional responsibility. PILCH NSW is committed to expanding the ethic of pro bono in connection with corporate social responsibility initiatives.
Please give us feedback about your experiences using Foolkit and ideas for improvements.
The Law Society of NSW scheme receives applications for assistance on a free or substantially reduced fee basis. They then refer these clients to the Pro Bono Panel of solicitors who have volunteered for this.
The NSW Bar Association Legal Assistance Referral Scheme (LARS)receives applications for assistance from barristers in a similar manner to the Law Society Scheme.
The Bar Association works with the Courts to provide a list of barristers who are prepared to volunteer if the Court wishes to appoint a representative in the interests of the administration of justice.
They also operate a Duty Barrister Scheme in a number of Courts.
Any assistance from any of these schemes is entirely at the discretion of these organisations and their participating members.
Mentoring can be a very rewarding experience for both the student / young lawyer and the mentor. Even just a monthly chat or phone call can be very helpful.
If you would like to volunteer to mentor a young lawyer then contact the Law Society or Women Lawyers Association.
A number of the Universities also welcome mentors for their students, into work experience (there is no obligation for this) and into their careers.
The organisations for people with disabilities and other disadvantaged groups highly value mentoring.
A warning from the wise. Do not relax your professional standards, take shortcuts or fail to take all you usual risk management procedures just because you are acting pro bono.
You undertake the same level of professional risk as you do with paying clients.
Some clients are grateful for your generosity. Others are less appreciative. Any one of them can turn on you if they don't get what they want.
National Pro Bono Resource Centre has a directory of Pro Bono services in each State.
Pro Bono and Profit Are Not at Odds - by the ABA.
Another way that lawyers can contribute their skills is by joining local community groups.