How Do Pro Bono Lawyers Get Paid?

Pro Bono Lawyers

Pro bono, which is derived from the Latin phrase pro bono publico meaning “for the general public’s benefit”, describes the concept of providing free services. Specifically relating to legal practice, Georgetown Law encourages its students to take on pro bono work during their studies and as they transition into professional attorneys.

Since these attorneys won’t be receiving any payment for their services, they may still qualify for fee waivers including court costs and administrative fees. As such, while pro bono attorneys might not receive financial reimbursement for their commitment to providing free legal services, they could at least be reassured that they won’t incur any losses from accepting the case.

The American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 6.1 further outlines that attorneys have a responsibility to provide gratis services. In order to do so, many programs set up in support of pro bono offerways of helping those of low-income find volunteer lawyers who are willing to either aid them for no charge, or in more exceptional cases take on their case entirely without compensation. Additionally, some of these programs provide a free legal hotline which you can use to attain a lawyer’s opinion on an immediate matter.

What is the Purpose of Pro Bono?

Pro bono work provides law students with an important opportunity to gain practical experience and develop essential lawyering skills. From problem-solving to legal research, pro bono service teaches law students how to navigate the real world of legal practice. Not only do they build their professional capabilities, but they are also able to give back to their communities in a meaningful way.

Benefits of Participating in Pro Bono Work

Lawyers and law students have unique abilities that can be utilized to increase access to justice for those who may not otherwise be able to obtain it. Participation in pro bono work can provide invaluable practical experience that will give participants an edge when seeking out future employment opportunities. Through networking and coordination within the public interest community, individuals are able to enhance their resumes with references from practicing lawyers and expand their career prospects.

Public Interest Career Considerations

For those interested in pursuing a career as a public defender or policy advocate, pro bono work offers the opportunity for hands-on experience in both the courtroom and policy-making settings. Moreover, interning with a public defender or policymaker could help narrow or broaden your career options, depending on the individual’s goals. Finally, pro bono work is essential when pursuing a public interest career, as most employers look for references from other attorneys who can attest to an applicant’s practical lawyering skills.

How do pro bono attorneys get paid?

Pro bono work is a type of service provided by attorneys without monetary compensation. It may involve taking on cases for a client or cause that the attorney finds particularly meaningful or engaging. Attorneys who provide pro bono services are typically not compensated for their time and effort; however, they may be eligible for fee waivers, such as court costs and other administrative fees, depending on the situation. In some cases, an attorney may enter into a retainer agreement that provides for the recovery of attorney fees if the case is ultimately successful.

Contingency Fee Arrangements

In certain circumstances, attorneys may choose to accept a case on a contingency fee basis. This means that no money changes hands unless the attorney succeeds in winning or settling the case. When this happens, the attorney receives a pre-determined percentage of the total payment or verdict amount (not always requiring a jury award). Additionally, attorneys may also be compensated due to a court order or settlement negotiation.

Motivations for Pro Bono Cases

The motivations behind why an attorney takes on a pro bono case vary from person to person. For example, pro bono work can be motivated by an attorney’s commitment to a particular cause, or it could be a way to help out someone who wouldn’t otherwise have access to legal representation. Additionally, attorneys may take up pro bono cases if they anticipate receiving recognition or publicity from winning the case. These are all examples of how attorneys receive “compensation” even though they don’t take tangible payments for their work.

Compensating for Pro Bono Cases

Many attorneys will charge paying clients fees to cover the expenses associated with pro bono cases. This allows the firm to avoid incurring financial losses that can result from taking on these cases. Pro bono work is also seen as an investment by many firms; by accepting pro bono cases, lawyers can ensure future business opportunities and bring positive attention to their practice.
Finally, pro bono cases can give attorneys a sense of purpose and satisfaction in their career beyond monetary gain. By helping those in need or advocating for those who cannot advocate for themselves, attorneys can leave an indelible mark on their legal community and feel genuine pride in their profession.

How Do I Find a Pro Bono Lawyer?

If you are looking for a pro bono or volunteer lawyer to assist you with your legal needs, you should look into contacting a program that specializes in providing free legal assistance. Nonprofit organizations, bar associations, and other entities may provide these types of services to individuals or families in need. For instance, the Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program in Texas operates under this sort of initiative. You can also see a full list of Pro Bono Legal Service providers on

Before applying for help from any of these types of programs, it may be necessary to attend a legal clinic. Though there is no guarantee of a pro bono lawyer this way, it is often the preferred method used by certain organizations. Additionally, some programs may only be applicable to those with low incomes, veterans, or those who meet additional requirements. When submitting the initial application for assistance, you will likely need to answer questions related to finances and other topics to determine if you qualify for a pro bono or volunteer lawyer. By doing your research and understanding the process involved, you can find the best route to acquiring free legal assistance that fits your situation.


What is the Florida Bar pro bono requirement?

To uphold its commitment to equal justice, The Florida Bar requires every member of the bar to provide a minimum of 20 hours of pro bono services each year. This can include direct representation of a client or non-representational assistance such as teaching, developing public policy, or providing non-legal services.

What qualifies you for legal aid in Florida?

Legal aid services in Florida are primarily geared toward individuals and families who cannot afford an attorney and have an income below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. Eligible individuals can receive free legal advice and representation from a network of nonprofit organizations throughout the state.

Do lawyers have to do pro bono in Texas?

Yes. In Texas, all members of the State Bar of Texas must complete at least 50 hours of pro bono work every year. This includes both direct representation and non-representational activities such as volunteer tutoring or providing technical assistance.

How can I get free legal advice in Texas?

You can seek out free legal advice by contacting one of the many nonprofit organizations that offer free legal services in Texas, such as Lone Star Legal Aid or Texas RioGrande Legal Aid. You may also contact your local courthouse to find out what resources may be available in your area.

Can you get a free attorney in California?

Yes. Depending on the nature of your case, there are various nonprofit organizations throughout California that offer free or low-cost legal services, including California Rural Legal Assistance, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, Bay Area Legal Aid, and Legal Services of Northern California.

Who is eligible for legal aid in California?

Generally speaking, legal aid services in California are targeted toward individuals whose income is at or below 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. Individuals who meet this criterion can receive free or low-cost legal representation from one of the state’s many nonprofit organizations.

What is the California Pro Bono Practice Program?

The California Pro Bono Practice Program was created by the State Bar of California to promote access to justice by connecting qualified attorneys with needy clients who lack legal representation. Through the program, attorneys provide their services for reduced fees or on a pro bono basis, making it easier for low-income individuals to obtain quality legal assistance.

Does Ohio have legal aid?

Yes. Ohio has a wide range of legal aid organizations that provide free or low-cost legal services to qualifying individuals. These include Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, Ohio Poverty Law Center, Central Ohio Legal Services, and Greater Cincinnati Legal Aid.

How do I get a pro bono lawyer for child custody in Ohio?

If you require pro bono legal assistance with regard to child custody matters in Ohio, you may wish to contact a nonprofit organization such as Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation or Advocates for Basic Legal Equality (ABLE). Additionally, some court systems offer self-help programs that can provide useful information and guidance with regard to family law issues.


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