Webster's dictionary defines pro bono to mean "being, involving, or doing professional and especially legal work donated especially for the public good."
The American Bar Association recommends that lawyers should aspire to render--without fee--at least 50 hours of pro bono publico legal services per year."
So you may ask "How do pro bono lawyers get paid?"
Pro bono is Latin and translates to "for good." The phrase "pro bono publico translates to "for the public good." Typically attorneys who do pro bono work generally do not get paid for that work. There can be exceptions, such as court appointments, where the lawyer works at a discounted rate approved by the court. Usually, each lawyer gets to choose the cases or causes they take on pro bono. Again there are exceptions. For example, Jackson County, Missouri Court has CASA program which stands for Court Appointed Special Counsel. The court apponts lawyers from the pool of attorneys practicing in the county.
Pro bono cases usually are not assigned to the lawyer. Typically the lawyer is allowed to choose the cases, causes, and clients he or she represents. Pro bono cases are often as a result of the lawyer's passion for a particular cause.
Or how can I get a pro bono lawyer for a criminal case?
The short answer is you probably will not find a lawyer willing to take these sorts of cases on pro bono. The reality of the matter is these are the lawyer's livelihoods. These sorts of cases are the bread and butter of many law practices. Without charging a fee on those types of cases the lawyer would not be able to support the law practice, let alone bring home a paycheck.
Like most things in law, there are exceptions. One exception is death penalty cases. The death penalty is controversial, and many lawyers believe the practice is unethical. As a result, many attorneys volunteer to represent these individuals on death row in an attempt to spare their lives.
Lawyers may also take on criminal pro bono cases if the case is highly publicized. Think Kathleen Zellner of Making Murderer fame. The Netflix series was essentially an eight-hour commercial for her law practice. Millions of people got to see first hand how she handles cases. I don't know about you, but I came away impressed. She is an excellent lawyer and advocate and is working on a case that fits right in with a passion. Cases with a high level of recognition for the lawyer can and perhaps result in future paying lucrative clients.
So how can I get a lawyer pro bono for an injury case?
The simple answer is you can not. I know of no lawyers who take personal injury case pro bono. The reason they don't is simple. Most of the time, if the lawyer does a good job, they can collect enough money to make the client happy and take a fee based on a percentage of that amount collected. That percentage is called a contingency fee.
Contingency fees have many advantages for clients. First, you will never get a bill from your lawyer. The lawyer does not get a retainer or get paid in any way until the case is settled. Second, most lawyers front all the expenses associated with bringing the client's case to a conclusion. Those expenses can be exceptionally expensive. Most lawyer's contingency fee contracts set out who pays those expenses if the case does not result in a money award or settlement. My law firm, McCollum Injury Law Firm, write off those expenses in the rare event we lose. That puts all the risk of financial loss on the lawyer - not the client.
Typically, the contingency fee rate is a range between 33% and 40%. The percent depends on a few factors. For example, the amount the client could potentially win, the strength of the case, and the amount of work that would be involved. I have seen contingency fees as high as 50%. Normally a fee that high is reserved for very small cases or very risky and difficult cases).
Pro bono work is done very frequently in the legal profession by many attorneys. Virtually all lawyers view pro bono as a charitable service that can often give lawyers a sense of purpose and mission to their practice.
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