Monday, April 17, 2006

A better definition of pro bono

I completely agree with the sentiments expressed in this story:
As a 22-year practicing attorney who travels to work via a 15-year-old car or bicycle, I must respond to Charlie Mitchell's column (" 'Equal justice' can be much fun as driving a Lexus," April 6) lest the public get the impression that Mississippi lawyers only get satisfaction from procuring a Lexus rather than providing legal services to the poor. Every day, Mississippi lawyers give away many hours of uncompensated legal work or legal work at low cost. Whether it is called pro bono is beside the point. It is legal work performed at little or no cost for people who can't afford to pay for it. Pro bono work should not be limited to cases taken on a totally uncompensated basis at the outset. Court-appointed lawyers in Hinds County provide a service to indigent defendants at the 20-year-old rate of $45 per hour - a rate below plumbers. Is not this providing a service to poor people who cannot afford counsel?
Again, pro bono publico means "for the public good." It does not and should not mean "works for free."


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