With the rise of legal fees in the United States, it can be hard for those in need of needing legal representation to afford a lawyer. That’s where pro bono lawyers come in. A pro bono lawyer is an attorney that provides free legal services to individuals and organizations. 

But how do pro bono lawyers get paid? In this article, we’re going to dwell into the world of pro bono lawyers in the United States. We’ll tackle everything from how they are compensated to why they choose to work pro bono. Also, we’ll be answering some frequently asked questions.

What Does Pro Bono Mean?

“Pro bono” is a Latin phrase that means “for good”. Pro bono lawyers do not provide their skills and services for money. Instead, they do so out of pure kindness for individuals and organizations that otherwise would not have the means to get an attorney.

Lawyers can do many kinds of pro bono work. For example, some may focus on disaster relief while others may cater to veterans or individuals with special needs. To put it simply, pro bono work has a nearly unlimited scope. As long as a legal service is free, it may be considered as pro bono.

Why Do Lawyers Choose To Work Pro Bono?

Pro bono work is an important component of the legal profession in the United States. There are several reasons why lawyers choose to work pro bono, including:

  • Giving Back To The Community

A lot of lawyers feel a sense of duty to utilize their abilities and expertise to assist those who are in need. Pro bono work lets them do just that by letting them provide legal services to those who need but can’t afford them.

  • Building Reputation

Pro bono work can be a superb way for lawyers to build a name for themselves within the legal community. By taking on pro bono cases, an attorney can demonstrate their commitment to the law profession, which can lead to future high-paying work.

  • Develop New Skills

Lawyers who are looking for the opportunity to develop new skills and gain experience can opt to do pro bono work. By doing so, they’ll be able to expose themselves to areas of law they might not otherwise have the chance to explore.

  • Meet Ethical Obligations

A pro bono attorney might be seeking to meet their ethical obligations. You see, The American Bar Association’s rules of professional conduct state that all lawyers have a responsibility to provide legal services to those in need. Pro bono work allows one to meet this obligation.

How Do Pro Bono Lawyers Get Paid?

Pro bono work is not paid work. Even so, there are several ways that a pro bono attorney can get compensated. Here are the most common examples of which:

  • Law Firm-Sponsored Programs

Many law firms maintain pro bono programs that encourage their attorneys to tackle pro bono work. Such programs frequently provide lawyers with billable hour credit or bonuses.

  • Grants & Funding

Pro bono organizations along with legal aid societies may receive grants and funding from the government, private foundations, or other organizations. A portion of this funding can be used for compensation to pro bono lawyers for their legal services.

  • Bar Association Programs

Some bar association programs provide pro bono lawyers with training, malpractice insurance, and lots of other resources. Although these programs don’t provide upfront compensation, they’re able to offset the personal costs that are associated with free legal assistance.

  • Court-Awarded Fees

In certain pro bono cases, lawyers may be awarded fees by the court for the services that they rendered. This usually occurs in cases wherein the opposing party is ordered to pay all of the prevailing party’s legal fees.

  • Tax Benefits

While pro bono attorneys cannot deduct the value of their time from their taxes, they can deduct some of the expenses that are associated with their work. For example, they may be able to deduct travel expenses or the cost of legal research and materials.


Pro bono work is a key part of the legal profession in the United States. It provides crucial legal services to those who can’t afford them. Though pro bono lawyers don’t receive payment for their services, they can indeed be compensated in other ways for their time and efforts.

By working pro bono, lawyers can’t expect to make a lot of money. However, they can give back to their communities, build their reputations, develop new skills, and meet their ethical obligations as members of their profession.