The term “pro bono” comes from the phrase Pro Bono Publico, or “for the good of the public.” In the legal context, pro bono refers to pro bono legal services, or legal services provided to a client who is unable to pay without expectation of a fee.
In North Carolina, every lawyer is encouraged to provide fifty hours of pro bono legal service each year by our Rules of Professional Conduct. This is not the only type of volunteerism encouraged by the rules, however. Rule 6.1 describes (1) pro bono legal services, which are legal services provided without fee or expectation of fee to persons of limited means, charitable organizations that are designed to address the needs of persons of limited means, or public interest organizations who cannot afford to pay; (2) legal services provided at a substantially reduced fee, (3) activities to improve the law, such as leadership in professional legal associations, service on boards of legal service providers to clients of limited means, or active participation in employer pro bono committees; and (4) providing financial support to legal service providers, such as Legal Aid of NC, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, and Pisgah Legal Services. Additionally, the Preamble of the Rules of Professional Conduct also encourages non-legal community service.