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Working for Free?!

Law practice in private sector is no doubt one of the most paying professions all over the world, probably because it is one of the most expensive services to afford. Especially in countries where legal justice depends very much on a person’s legal representation, especially common law countries, having the means to afford a good lawyer might makes all the difference in the world for being right or wrong with the same set of facts – which is also the reason for a good number of social debates. On the other hand, law firms in these countries provide substantial pro bono services – services that are provided free of charge, for the public good.

These services are provided in a relatively large array of fields, intensifying on fields such as immigration and customer protection, where those who need these services are most vulnerable – and from a pragmatic point of view, usually worth more credit in the eyes of society, where lawyers are not liked much. But these services also reach to fields such as providing legal opinion to micro-entrepreneurs or to Nonprofits, either in their formation or in further stages of their activities.

But law firms are too pragmatic to be satisfied with only social benefits of providing pro bono services. The fact that they are almost too willing to provide these services make one think that there should be other reasons, beyond social commitments – and there are indeed other potential reasons. Pro bono cases allow law firms to have more visibility and to promote their firm name within the society generally and allow them to interact with law schools more specifically.

Above all, probably the most important component in law firms’ willingness to be involved in pro bono projects is it offers junior associates an opportunity where the cost of mistakes is not as high as billable deals. Law firms give a lot more freedom and responsibility to junior associates and encourage them to use more initiative in these cases, still under the guidance of more senior lawyers which still allow them to learn while they are helping others. It also effectively helps junior associates to develop their skills at a much faster pace; skills that will be valuable for billable work that they will do as well.

That all said, It would be unfair to accuse law firms of having only ulterior motivations, and to dismiss easily their social contributions and sincere commitments. And even if they do have ulterior motives, I don’t think that anything is wrong with it, as long as everybody benefits from it: pro bono counsel, the client and even legal and non-legal communities in general.

Is justice dependent on money? Should it be? Is Pro Bono work a proper remedy for it?


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Said Ertekin
Following his passion for leaving his imprint on world, Said decided to study Law. His multilingual high school education is followed by Law education in Switzerland, where he had the opportunity to get an international perspective thanks to constantly interacting legal rules in a country in the middle of Europe. He then finally crowned his studies with a master in Georgetown, a school known for its contribution to the international legal field. Although his studies seem to be over, his education and training still continue at DLA Piper LLP, a global law firm, located in the heart of New York. His practice focuses on capital markets offerings, leveraged finance and national and international project finance. He is excited to be part of international writer community of Youngsday and LinkedIn Pulse.


  1. Hi Said,

    Very nice article! I think you have made good points. I would add two more aspects:

    1. At least the majority of lawyers out there are not busy “all day, every day” with billable work. Therefore this is a good way to handle “downtime”.

    2. Many law firms have started to work “pro bono” for start ups and micro-entrepreneurs, as you have stated. However, everyone hopes that he/she is helping the next Facebook to come along ;-)) Therefore pro bono might turn around into a very profitable client.

    Best wishes,

  2. Good information. Lucky me I came across your blog by chance (stumbleupon).
    I’ve book marked it for later!

  3. In other countries like Chile, the law practice is done in a public institution. After finish the university, graduates must to work in a public institution (legal assistance corporation LAC) which gives legal assistance to those people that don´t have enough money or economic capacity to pay a lawyer, thus, this is a service for the poorest in Chile. After six months those graduate are assessed with scores, if they pass this assessment may present themselves in the Supreme Court of Justice in order to receive professional law degree.
    This is the difference with USA, in Chile, private law firms are not part of this process.
    Best Wishes,

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