Pro Bono Legal Service: Relevance, Practice and Scope.
The term Pro Bono is the short form for the Latin term Pro Bono Publico that generally connotes the legal service rendered free of cost by the legal fraternity for those who are unable to pay the requisite charges for the legal service rendered.
In other words Pro Bono Publico means an attorney attending to and providing solutions to a person pertaining to his legal problems, without getting any remuneration from him, considering his poverty into account Pro Bono also refers to the legal service rendered by the attorneys to the individuals by getting a reduced fees from a person with limited resources as well as the free legal service provided to the social and charitable organizations which deal with the common problems or issues of the poor people, orphans and destitute women relating to their employment, education ,custody and rehabilitation etc
Pro Bono Legal Service has become more relevant and popular and received wider currency in the US, consequent to the on set of recession, leading to the closure of a number of attorney firms.
Besides, according to a survey and study undertaken by the American Bar Association, at least 40 % the low income group people suffer with legal problems, out of which only 20 % seek their remedy in the courts and the remaining 20% who cannot afford to pay for the legal expenses suffer silently.
Besides, in the largest democracies like US or India, in order to remove the inequalities that prevail between the rich and the poor, the interests of the poor people, lacking in means, has to be taken care of.; pertaining to their legal problems Pro Bono Legal Service is the only viable remedy for them.
A lawyer is privileged to practice his legal profession in the society using his qualification and legal acumen; legal ethics requires that in order to render justice to his profession, a practicing attorney must take care of the poor and the underprivileged people also.
Pro Bono Legal Service in practice:-
In the year 1996, the ABA has stipulated a minimum of 50 hours of Pro Bono legal service per year by each and every practicing Attorney. The American Bar Association has a standing committee for Pro Bono Legal Service so as to co-ordinate its activities with various State Bar Councils Each state Bar council has laid down its own rules and regulations to effectively implement Pro Bono legal service as per the guidelines issued by the ABA standing committee for Pro Bono.
So as to prepare the future attorneys for Pro Bono Legal Service on the initiatives taken by the American Bar Association, as many as 34 Law Schools in the US have made Pro Bono Legal Service as part of their academic curriculum and the law student should render at least a minimum of 25 to 75 hours of Pro Bono Legal Service or community service
To promote Pro Bono Legal Service, budding attorneys are trained by private operators;Pro Bono workshops are conducted; exclusive Pro Bono web sites are giving advice and guidance in the on line to those who are in need of Pro Bono Legal Service.
The American Bar Association is celebrating Pro Bono week from October 24 to 30, so as to spread the message and benefits of Pro Bono in the US among the needy people, to enlist more volunteers from the legal fraternity to do Pro Bono Legal service, besides giving Pro Bono awards to those who have rendered a best Pro Bono service.
Thus the American Bar Association is making all out effort to promote the cause of Pro Bono Legal Service.
In India, Pro Bono legal service is offered slightly differently and rather in an organized manner, guided and controlled by the Legal Services Authority of India Act. There is a Supreme Court legal services authority, headed by the Chief Justice of India as the Patron in Chief and under the chairmanship of a sitting or a retired Supreme Court Judge. Likewise, all the High courts of the states, District courts, Taluk committees etc are headed and administered by the concerned highest judicial officers Funds required for running these organizations are provided by the Government to the Central committee of the Supreme Court, which in turn allocate available funds to all the High Courts. Each High court allocates the funds to its District Courts which fall under their jurisdiction. And they in turn allocate to the Taluk committees. Under the provisions of the Legal Services Authority Act, legal service is offered to the needy and poor people provided they submit an affidavit stating that they have no means.
Lawyers who are willing to do service under the Legal Services Authority Act are empanelled once in three years. However, there is no compulsory enlistment of lawyers for doing free legal service nor there is any obligatory ruling requiring a lawyer to do a minimum number of hours of free legal service in a year Doing a free legal service is only optional.
Legal aid is provided both in civil and criminal matters.Though lawyers are expected to render free legal service initially, they are compensated subsequently with a prescribed fee paid by the Government.The fee paid to the lawyers is only a meager amount The entire fund and the expenses involved in providing free legal service to the needy and poor people is provided as grants in aid by the Government of India and charged to the Consolidated Funds of India.Thus Pro Bono Legal Service is offered to the needy and poor people at the gross root level in India as regulated by the Legal Services Authority of India Act.
Scope of the Pro Bono Legal Service:-
In the US, the American Bar Association by coordinating the activities of Pro Bono Legal Service with all other State Bars, spread the message of Pro Bono legal service far and wide, besides observing Pro Bono week from October 24 to 30 every year along with other State Bars.
By enlisting more attorneys for Pro Bono Legal Service, the ABA tries to fulfill the legal requirements of needy and the have-nots. as much as possible.
By stipulating a compulsory and minimum Pro Bono Legal Service at the academic level in many law schools, a service oriented upcoming legal fraternity is created.These students by doing Pro Bono legal service during their academic career not only gain legal knowledge and experience but also equip themselves for a prospective legal career.
In India, as provided in the Legal Services Authority of India Act,, the benefits of free legal service is propagated among the people by conducting legal aid camps and meetings at the Taluk level, where illiteracy prevails more.At the District level Lok Adalats are conducted for resolving disputes as easily as possible.
Thus Pro Bono Legal Service is gaining much ground benefiting the needy and the poor and the future legal fraternity as well. .