A Tradition for Justice: Pro Bono Work


A Tradition for Justice: Pro Bono Work

Pro bono work has a rich history in our profession. For centuries, legal practitioners have recognized and acted on the moral and societal imperative to help provide legal services to those unable to afford them. This longstanding tradition resonates across different legal and societal contexts, embodying the idea that access to justice is a fundamental right rather than a privilege for the privileged few. This pro bono tradition is something to celebrate.

The Power of Pro Bono

The power of pro bono is undeniable. Everyone, no matter their circumstances, should have access to justice. Unfortunately, however, many British Columbians are unable to afford legal representation or access legal services when needed most. Pro bono work — work “for the public good” — has long played a pivotal role in helping to bridge this gap and to promote meaningful access to justice for those in need.

The privilege of practising law carries a responsibility to promote justice and make it more accessible. To fulfill this responsibility, many legal practitioners devote substantial time and resources to providing pro bono legal services to those least able to afford them — a tradition that has endured for centuries.

This enduring tradition has made a meaningful difference in the lives of countless people. For example, pro bono work has played a pivotal role in advancing social justice. Legal practitioners acting pro bono for individuals and communities who lack the means to afford their services have helped challenge discrimination, rectify injustices, and achieve fairness — all without any expectation of any financial compensation. This pro bono work has helped shape our society for the better.

Encouraging Pro Bono Work

Over the years, law clinics, pro bono events, and other initiatives have encouraged more legal practitioners to do more pro bono work. For example, UVic’s Law Centre, UBC’s Law Students’ Legal Advice Program, Access Pro Bono’s Everyone Legal Clinic, the Rise Women’s Legal Centre, and others have expanded the reach of pro bono services and provided platforms for legal practitioners to offer their services to those in need. These initiatives have been instrumental in breaking down barriers and promoting access to justice for underserved populations.

Access Pro Bono’s “Pro Bono Going Public” campaign illustrates our profession’s commitment to pro bono work. Now in its 15th year, the event has not only increased awareness about pro bono work, but also connected people in need directly with legal professionals. In 2022, the event saw more than 200 volunteer lawyers provide free legal advice to more than 400 British Columbians in need, and raised more than $135,000 to support access to justice in our province. This initiative and other pro bono initiatives make a real difference on a major scale.

Our profession rightly celebrates the pro bono tradition. For example, the CBABC’s Harry Rankin, QC Award celebrates B.C. lawyers who have made outstanding contributions through pro bono work. The Law Society of British Columbia’s Pro Bono Award likewise recognizes lawyers who have made a significant impact through pro bono work. These recognitions not only honour individual achievements, but also encourage more legal practitioners to do more pro bono work.

An Enduring Tradition

Pro bono work is an enduring tradition deeply rooted in our profession’s commitment to justice. To be sure, pro bono work is not a complete solution to British Columbia’s access to justice crisis. Other commitments, including a sustained commitment from government to fund legal aid, are needed to make justice more accessible. But our profession’s pro bono tradition is nonetheless an important part of the solution. By upholding this tradition and making it an integral part of our practices, we can continue to make a lasting impact on improving access to justice for people in need.

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