Economic and social inequalities are considered one of the greatest challenges in society. The injustices prevent marginalized groups to be heard, exercise their rights, and have the same opportunities as others, which causes social disparity and the undermining of the public order. In the legal environment, inequalities are reflected in the lack of access to justice for vulnerable and low-income groups, a circumstance that is frequently left unresolved.

With the common good in mind, the legal industry provides a position of knowledge, enabling representation and providing effective legal assistance to the public. Which is why to face the issue at hand, the intervention of legal experts is essential. It is only them who will recognize their commitment to society and will contribute to a fairer and more equal system, implementing what is currently known as the provision of pro-bono legal services.

Pro-bono, of Latin origin, means “for the public good”, or in other words, conducts in benefit of society. According to the Declaration of Pro-bono Work for the American Continent, created by lawyers from Latin America and the United States, doing pro-bono work refers to:

“[…] provide legal services free of charge or without the expectation of payment, and that mainly benefit poor or underprivileged individuals or communities and the organizations which assist them. These may include representing and advising individuals, communities or organizations on matters of public interest, which otherwise would not obtain them in an effective manner. In addition, pro bono legal services may also benefit civic, cultural, and educational institutions serving the public interest which would also lack effective representation and counsel.”

Apart from being a voluntary and non-remunerated service in most law firms, schools, foundations, among other organizations, pro-bono work is known to provide ethical norms and parameters that maintain the same quality standards as paid legal services.

To illustrate, pro-bono assistance is made latent in practice through legal advice or representation, legal training, and defense in trial, in benefit of different social groups, which commonly include migrants, children and teenagers, women, people with disabilities and indigenous communities, who would otherwise not have access to legal counsel. On the other hand, areas such as the provision of legal services to family and friends, teaching in law-schools and legal support in order to receive a favorable condition, does not qualify as pro-bono work.

Law firms have been increasingly interested in contributing to this social cause, either individually or collectively, by raising awareness of the positive impact this service has in the promotion and defense of human rights. Pro-bono work also provides lawyers with the opportunity to enrich their knowledge, gain experience and develop their social and judicial expertise.

Pro-bono work expresses the social responsibility of lawyers to seek justice for all. It is a way to ensure the greater good, contributing to a fair and equal rule of law, which includes those who are in an unfavorable position, with the aim of uniting society. The legal industry has demonstrated that by devoting experience, knowledge, and time to legal assistance, justice can be served without expecting something in return. The time has come to strengthen the confidence in legal work, and pro-bono work is a great way to do so. At Acedo Santamarina, A.C. we are committed to doing pro-bono work, offering high-quality legal services in benefit of the most needed sectors in society.

Ana Patterson