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Balance in Society: Pro-bono Labor

Economic and social inequality is one of the greatest challenges facing our society. This situation translates into the impossibility of certain people to exercise their rights, make themselves heard and have the same opportunities as others, which causes a clear social inequity and detriment to public order. In the legal sphere, this inequality is reflected in the lack of access to justice for vulnerable and low-income groups, a circumstance that frequently goes unresolved.

With a view to the common good, the practice of the legal profession provides a position of knowledge that enables it to represent and provide effective legal assistance to the public. It is for this reason that in order to face this problem, the intervention of legal professionals is indispensable, who, recognizing their commitment to society in contributing to a fairer and more equitable legal system, implement what is known as the provision of pro-bono legal services.

This term, of Latin origin, means “for the public good”, i.e. conduct for the benefit of society. According to the Declaration of Pro-bono Work for the American Continent, drafted by lawyers from various countries in 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 which primarily benefit poor or underprivileged individuals or communities and the organizations that assist them. These may include representing and advising individuals, communities or organizations on matters of public interest, which they would not otherwise obtain in an effective manner. In addition, pro bono legal services may also benefit civic, cultural, and educational institutions that serve the public interest and would otherwise also not obtain effective representation and counsel.”

In addition to being a voluntary and unpaid service provided by several law firms, law schools, law firms, foundations, among other organizations, pro-bono work has the characteristic of being provided in compliance with the rules and ethical parameters, as well as with the same quality standards as a paid legal service.

To illustrate, pro-bono assistance is made latent in practice through legal advice or representation, legal training and defense in court, for the benefit of different social groups among which are commonly migrants, children and adolescents, women, people with disabilities, indigenous communities, among others, who otherwise would not have access to adequate legal advice. In contrast, conduct such as providing legal services to family and friends, teaching in law schools, and providing legal support subject to a favorable condition, does not imply pro bono work.

Increasingly, law firms have become interested in contributing to this social cause, either individually or collectively, raising awareness of the favorable impact of this service in relation to the promotion and defense of human rights. In addition, pro-bono work gives lawyers the opportunity to enrich their knowledge, gain experience and develop in a particular social and legal environment.

Finally, pro-bono work expresses the social responsibility of lawyers to seek justice for all. It is a way of looking after the common good, contributing to the achievement of a fair and equitable rule of law, which includes those who are in a disadvantaged position with the aim of uniting society. More fundamentally, in the legal profession, by devoting the experience, knowledge and time of jurists to legal aid, it is demonstrated that justice can be served without receiving something in return. It is time to strengthen confidence in legal work, and pro-bono service is a great way to do this. At Acedo Santamarina, S.C. we are committed to doing pro-bono work, providing and offering a high quality legal service for the benefit of the most needy sectors.

Ana Patterson

Acedo Santamarina

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