Pro Bono comes from the Latin term pro bono publico which translates as for the public good. Pro bono in the legal world means the work carried out by an attorney for free because it is viewed as being in the public’s interest to do so. Pro bono work has gained in popularity in recent years with the American Bar Association recommending that all attorneys should spend at least 50 hours per year on pro bono legal work. In a cut throat world of billing by the fifteen minutes this is actually a substantial commitment.
Law firms do not tend to advertise the availability of their pro bono services and therefore finding a good lawyer may take some effort. Larger firms often have a pro bono coordinator and by contacting them you may be able either to secure an appointment or get a referral to a different pro bono lawyer. You can narrow down the number of firms you contact by focusing your research on the firm’s specific core area of legal business. If you research the law firm online you can also see whether they are members of relevant accredited organizations. For example if you are looking for a pro bono divorce female lawyer, you may want to find one that is a certified member of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers as this organization has an examination process before certifying firms as members. As with finding a fee paying lawyer you are also best advised to contact your local bar association for a list of those lawyers in the state who agree to take pro bono cases.
While it may seem that any lawyer willing to work for free would constitute the best lawyer to choose it is still important that you give as much consideration to choosing a pro bono lawyer as you would to choosing one that you were paying for. It is important to ensure that the pro bono lawyer you select has the necessary experience in the area you wish to pursue. If you are seeking a pro bono lawyer for a custody dispute then a lawyer who specializes in bankruptcy will clearly lack the necessary experience and knowledge of the law. They could be the best bankruptcy or debt lawyer in the entire state but if they do not know the relevant law they will not be successful in representing you.
As important as it is that the lawyer has the necessary experience, locality is also important. Laws vary from state to state and your best chance of success lies with a lawyer who knows the intricacies of the local laws.
It is also essential that you establish at the outset if you will be responsible for any expenses such as the provision of medical records or the testimony of expert witnesses. If you are responsible you should also ascertain how much these expenses should come to in total, and if you are expected to pay upfront.
Law firms bill by the fifteen minutes. Therefore it is important that you understand at the outset that the time allocated to your case may be limited. Discuss this with your pro bono lawyer before committing to the case. If you feel that the time allocated will not be sufficient then it may be necessary to choose a lawyer who has more available time. Ask questions about how often they will be able to meet with you, how quickly are they able to respond to emails and telephone calls. All of these issues affect their ability to take your case. It does not matter if they are free if you are never able to contact them.
The main issue is that you are able to openly discuss such issues from the outset. If the relationship starts with you feeling unable to ask questions as you are not paying then it will not be a good working relationship. Just because the service is being provided for free does not mean that you should not expect the best service possible. If you are unable to communicate freely then you should seek other representation.
You may feel that your case is of the utmost importance to you. However you must manage your expectations of finding a lawyer who is willing to take your matter. Pro bono work is highly sought after and as such often goes to those people who are considered unable to pay for a lawyer themselves, yet the matter warrants an action being taken. Pro bono lawyers may therefore be choosy about who they feel is justified in being represented for free. They may also have a tendency towards cases in which their pro bono work draws attention. If your matter is not especially media worthy or if they feel you are not financially deserving of representation they may refuse to take the matter. Do not be disheartened. There are other pro bono attorneys. It may just take some time to find the right one.