We have all heard or used the word “pro bono”, and often not aware of where to find organizations that offer such services. What does this word really mean and stand for? Pro bono is short for the Latin phrase pro bono publico, which means "for the public good." Professionals in many fields offer pro bono services to nonprofit organizations. These organizations include hospitals, universities, national charities, churches, and foundations. It is also possible to do pro bono work for individual clients who cannot afford to pay. The term is used primarily in the legal profession. Lawyers who serve the public interest by providing free legal services to those in need do so on a pro bono basis.
Constitution Hill living museum and Heritage site is proud to host ProBono as one of our tenants. ProBono is an organization that lives the values of our Constitution through the work that they do. And their organization’s contribution to a fair and just society is a story every South African should know about.
ProBono.Org was formed in 2006 to ensure that the services of the private legal profession are made available to those who cannot afford to pay for them. This is achieved by leveraging the skills, time, and capacity of private legal services as a means of meeting the legal needs of the country’s most vulnerable residents and communities. ProBono.Org has offices in Johannesburg, Durban, and Cape Town. Our vision is to contribute towards the transformation of the legal profession so that it remains committed to working continuously towards the greater social need.
Their main activities include:
- Running a general legal clearing house at our three offices where clients are consulted, their matter assessed and, where appropriate, referred to private lawyers for free legal assistance.
- We hold free weekly legal clinics staffed by pro bono attorneys which include legal clinics for refugees, women with maintenance and domestic violence issues, people with housing problems, people who experience police brutality, consumers with consumer law problems, non-government organizations (NGOs) and community-based organizations (CBOs) who require legal assistance, and small businesses that need start up legal assistance.
- Operating help desks at certain courts to assist people to navigate the court system and provide advice and assistance.
- Making available trained mediators to mediate disputes.
- Providing communities with education and legal advice on wills, laws and inheritance, small estates and disputes at help desks based at the master’s Offices in Johannesburg and Durban every week, and other venues close to communities.
- Identifying and taking on matters that will promote administrative, legislative and policy change.
- Working with NGOs and CBOs for client referrals and to strengthen their organizational capacity by providing them with a legal service.
- Assisting Community Advice Offices by recruiting attorneys from small firms to assist paralegals and their clients.
- Running regular training workshops on public interest law and human rights for lawyers, NGOs, CBOs, CAOs and stakeholders.