Pro Bono Legal Work: The disconnect between saying you’ll do it and doing it

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Pro bono is a significant component of one of the many professional obligations a lawyer has to fulfil for the public good. It is evident that this is acknowledged by not only those who practice law, but those who are training to be a lawyer and by the professional bodies. Despite this acknowledgement there is a clear disconnect between the importance placed on delivering pro bono services and the actual delivery of the same. There have been previous suggestions that in order to increase the commitment to pro bono work, there is a need to mandate its delivery. However, the notion of mandatory pro bono work has always been dismissed and therefore it is now appropriate to consider other ways in which a commitment could be encouraged and adopted.

This paper will consider the reasons why the profession, at all stages, considers pro bono to be such an important social function and whether such motivations are sufficient to sustain a commitment throughout a lawyer’s career. Such considerations will be made from the perspective of a solicitor in England and Wales, as this is connected to the author’s own pro bono experience. The paper will also consider why there is a disconnect, and what the rationale is for non-participation in pro bono work once in practice. It will consider the key barriers to full participation and recommend action that ought to be taken in order to develop a pro bono culture and therefore commitment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-53
Number of pages29
JournalInternational Journal of Clinical Legal Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jul 2019


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