People talk a lot about Pro Bono but did you know that the term pro bono is short for the Latin "pro bono publico," which means "for the public good." The term refers to free services that non-profit groups or charitable organisations arrange through Professionals in the field of Law to provide to impoverished clients – people who are financially challenged in that they are just surviving: not people who are earning a reasonable salary but prefer to use their funds on other things.
Being a Pro Bono Client doesn’t mean you’ll get the worst Attorney, or be put to the bottom of the pile, or treated in any other way to the way in which we treat our paying Clients. You’ll receive the same excellent service as anyone else. Your matter will be attended to in the most professional manner and everything will be done at the same pace as any other Client receives. Most people at that Law Firm won’t even know you are a pro bono Client.
Every Practising Attorney in South Africa under the age of 60 years is required to do 24 hrs pro bono work per year. However, once you start the matter on a bro bono basis you must finish it the same way, and most matters last in excess of hundreds of hours. So the pro bono client will always benefit to the hilt instead of just the required 24 hours. All the pro bono Clients must pay for are the disbursements costs, i.e. for sheriffs’ fees and the like – which usually doesn’t amount to very much.
Naturally there are very few Law Firms that you can walk into and expect them to immediately start pro bono on a matter for you. There are various steps to be taken before that can happen. First you would approach the Law Society of the Northern Provinces – or whatever branch of the Law Society that is in your residential area, i.e. Kwa Zulu Natal or Cape Town, etc. Or conversely you could approach the organisation ProBono.org. Many people don’t know about the Law Society but they have heard of ProBono.org and there many outlets. Both these Societies are equipped to attend to your legal needs by finding the correct Attorneys who can handle your matter and need to put in their annual pro bono hours. They will check to establish that your means are low enough to qualify for Pro Bono assistance. Then, after the necessary form completing, they will assign you and your matter to a Law Firm for one of the Attorneys to handle your matter for free and thus satisfy their annual commitment to giving free service to one client. Naturally, as stated above, you will only be expected to pay for disbursements. Once completed if you came to us through ProBono.org, they will report back to the Law Society who are the policing body overall of all pro bono matters.
Contact details to help you are:
Address: 1st Floor West Wing Women’s Jail Constitution Hill 1 Kotze Street Braamfontein
Phone: 011 339 6080
Law Society of the Northern Provinces
Council in Pretoria, South Africa
Address: 123 Paul Kruger St, Pretoria Central, Pretoria, 0002
Hours: 8AM - 4:30 PM
Phone: 012 338 5800
Martin Vermaak Attorneys do much more pro bono work than is required because we don’t do it just because we are required to.
Pro Bono gives us Attorneys the chance to ‘give back’ and help those people who are in real need but cannot afford professional services. It’s that ‘feel good’ thing where everyone gets to feel good about something for all the right reasons…..and that’s rare!