What is Pro Bono?

The term "pro bono," which is short for pro bono publico, is a Latin term that means "for the public good." Although the term is used in different contexts to mean "the offering of free services," it has a very specific meaning to those in the legal profession. Georgetown Law strongly encourages law students to develop a practice of engaging in pro bono work while in law school, and to carry this habit forward as they transition into practice.

Rule 6.1 of the American Bar Association's Model Rules of Professional Conduct, lays out the obligation of attorneys to engage in pro bono.

Every lawyer has a professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay. A lawyer should aspire to render at least (50) hours of pro bono publico legal services per year. In fulfilling this responsibility, the lawyer should:

  1. Provide a substantial majority of the (50) hours of legal services without fee or expectation of fee to:
    1. Persons of limited means or
    2. Charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental and educational organizations in matters that are designed primarily to address the needs of persons of limited means; and
  2. Provide any additional services through:
    1. Delivery of legal services at no fee or substantially reduced fee to individuals, groups or organizations seeking to secure or protect civil rights, civil liberties or public rights, or charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental and educational organizations in matters in furtherance of their organizational purposes, where the payment of standard legal fees would significantly deplete the organization's economic resources or would be otherwise inappropriate;
    2. Delivery of legal services at substantially reduced fee to persons of limited means; or
    3. Participation in activities for improving the law, the legal system or the legal profession.

In addition, a lawyer should voluntarily contribute financial support to organizations that provide legal services to persons of limited means.

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