Law plays a primary role in maintaining balance in the society. It serves as a mechanism for resolving occasional disputes and providing justice to all. Law ensures that no individual is denied justice due to economic reasons or other disabilities. This can only be possible if every individual has access to legal aid. Legal aid means providing free legal services to the poor and weaker sections of society who are not financially capable of paying a lawyer’s fee or those who do not possess economic means to hire a lawyer who can appear in court on their behalf.
Article 14 of the Constitution of India provides equality of law and equal protection of law to all its citizens. The preamble to the Constitution of India ensures social, economic, and political justice to all individuals. Also, according to Article 39A of the Constitution of India, the State shall make sure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice on the basis of equal opportunity and shall provide free legal aid, by suitable legislation or schemes. Right to legal aid is thus an inherent right guaranteed by the Constitution of India and lawyers are obliged to offer free legal aid or as we often say pro bono services to the citizens.
Pro Bono Legal Services
The word Pro Bono is derived from the Latin phrase pro bono publico, which means ‘public good.’ Pro bono services are generally referred to as those services which are offered by the professionals to the general public absolutely free of cost or at a minimal fee. In the legal profession, free legal services which are provided by an advocate to an individual who is not capable of hiring a lawyer and paying its fee is termed as pro bono service. Legal services include any service offered by a lawyer in the conduct of any case or during legal proceedings before any court or advice on a legal matter. Pro bono service is the practice of providing legal assistance to those who are in genuine need of legal help but are unable to represent themselves before the court due to shortage of money. Pro bono lawyers render their services to such people either free of cost or at a minimal cost.
It is the moral obligation of a lawyer to render pro bono services. Rule 46 of the Bar Council of India Rules states that during the practice of the profession, every lawyer must keep in mind that any person who genuinely requires legal aid is entitled to legal assistance even if he is not capable of paying the lawyer’s fee fully or adequately. If it is within the limits of an Advocate’s economic condition, then an oppressed person must be provided free legal assistance. Pro bono service is one of the highest obligations an advocate owes to society.
How do Pro Bono Lawyers get paid?
Lawyers, as well as students, are often advised to take up pro bono cases and offer free legal assistance. The main question that arises is that if the services are rendered free of cost, then how does a pro bono lawyer earn his living, how do pro bono lawyers get paid? The easiest answer to this question is that lawyers who take up pro bono cases do not work as pro bono attorneys all the time. They conduct the cases of their paid clients while taking up pro bono cases in their free time. No lawyer earns his living by only representing pro bono cases in court or by offering legal advice to the needy. Lawyers generally take on pro bono cases out of their passion for serving the society or for attaining a particular agenda. Even though pro bono cases do not allow the lawyers to earn enough money, it certainly offers several benefits and opens numerous doors of opportunities for them. If a lawyer represents a pro bono case which is highly publicized, then the lawyer also earns a lot of reputation and fame, thus increasing the possibility of future clients. If the lawyer wins the pro bono case, he receives an appraisal, and more people are willing to hire him. He gets a lot more clients that pay a good amount of money. Pro bono cases basically work as a marketing strategy for the lawyers who do not take up such cases to fulfill their passion. Pro bono cases offer recognition, and increased clientele to the lawyers and help them to earn a reputation. For lawyers who have just started their career, pro bono cases are a lot more beneficial. It helps them in their overall development and growth as a lawyer by enhancing the skills of an advocate. The number of cases a pro bono attorney takes up, the more he practices in court, which eventually helps him in building his network of fellow advocates as well as clients. This eventually leads to more recognition, more work, and thus more earning.
Lawyers are expected to act as guardians of justice in the society for the attainment of which, it is necessary that they take up a maximum number of cases. Moreover, in a country like India, where the gap between the rich and poor is very wide, more pro bono cases taken up by the lawyers is the need of the hour.