Pro Bono Public is a Latin phrase translated as for the public good. The concept of Pro Bono means any work or activity undertaken to help non-commercial organizations or people in need voluntarily and without payment. Unlike volunteerism this help is provided by those who have professional knowledge and skills. Lately, Pro Bono assistance has become more commonly practiced in this country. And not only among law firms. Qualified free legal services may be received from audit, consulting, marketing companies and advertising agencies.
As to Pro Bono projects of lawyers, in some US states it is an obligation to annually provide at least 50 hours of Pro Bono services. “Needy people would predominately require legal services. According to the American Bar Association research, at least 40% of families with low and medium income would face legal issues annually,” – writes Pro Bono Net, American organization. In Great Britain, for over 10 years, a pro Bono week is being celebrated, during which such services are promoted.
Corporate Social Responsibility
The same is valid for law firms within context of their corporate social responsibility, it being a firm’s voluntary initiative to develop and implement socially oriented non-for-profit events. The objective of such events is to improve external environment of the company (reaching social consensus, security, wellbeing of the citizens, observation of human rights, etc.)
And if we consider experience of foreign counterparts, law firms in other countries are “responsible in their attitude to their Corporate Social Responsibility” drafting annual reports on Corporate Social Responsibility and Pro Bono reports, where they inform the public of such projects implemented by them.
Let’s return to Ukraine. Every year, attention paid by law firms in Ukraine to social orientation in their firm’s development and operation is increasing. Traditional concept of business as an activity aimed at generating profit is gradually replaced by attempts to grasp what input in the society such business may make. Along with economic indices, social responsibility is gaining more important role in providing competitiveness of Ukrainian companies in the global business environment, in their productivity and profitability growth.
In particular, it goes about preservation of environment, development and implementation of programs for educational institutions, medical institutions, kindergartens, health resorts, and other institutions of social infrastructure, formation of social, educational, and psychological support systems to employees, implementation of ethical behavior in relations with investors, suppliers, consumers, and other stakeholders.
The survey “Market Leaders: 2016 Ukrainian Law Firms Rating” showed that national law firms do not stand aside social problems, initiating and giving support to social responsibility projects, as well as providing free legal assistance. The facts are: 65% of survey participants have cases of corporate social responsibility in their portfolio, and 68% - provide Pro Bono services.
It takes a law firm about 150 hours to implement one Pro Bono project on average. According to information of the questionnaires, it can be either several hours of legal aid provided to a physical person, or hundreds of hours of legal consultations to a civil society organization, or participation in working groups making draft laws.
Based on the data received, we see that Ukrainian law firms implement their corporate social responsibility projects in the fields as:
- legal education and aid to talented youth (launch and support to law schools, master classes for students, support to scholarship contest in law) – 42% of all projects presented;
- assistance to participants and victims of Antiterrorist Operation in the eastern Ukraine – 35%;
- charity (financial support to persons in need, organization and support to charity auctions, assistance to charity organizations, orphanages, social rehabilitation centers) – 61%;
- sport events (support and organization of marathons, sport events and competitions) – 10%.
Is there any space for arts in legal business?
It is worth mentioning that although lawyers are people with practical mindset, who seem to be far from the arts, however, participants of our survey prove the opposite. Many of the law firms reached by survey indicate support to Ukrainian arts as one of the aspects of their corporate social responsibility program. Organizing and giving support to exhibitions of Ukrainian artists, international art projects, art auctions and exhibitions, law firms promote talented Ukrainian artists and their works, and help the world public discover the Ukrainian art.
Understanding importance of environment protection issues, law business is also engaged in “green initiatives”. Thus, according to the questionnaires, over 11% of law firms position themselves as active participants of the programs aimed at protection of environment, in particular:
- implementation of ecologically friendly natural resources preservation programs;
- electric power economy (purchase of office supplies and equipment marked as ecologically friendly and having resource saving properties);
- programs of efficient paper and water consumption;
- planting of greenery in office;
- recycling of wastes.
Activity in Law Making
Who other than lawyers should help the state to enhance legal framework? Participation in working groups for making draft laws, analyzing legislative acts for social policy, consulting state institutions on law issues, cooperating with ministries and international institutions – about 40% of law firms have dedicated their precious time to social work in law-making field.
The response of the world around us is an indicator of our development level: the society we live in, formation of certain conditions and circumstances directly and indirectly reflecting the state of our life, etc. And it is not important whether you are a citizen of your country, or a member of your family, or a head of your company. What important is to feel and take responsibility for what is going on around us. But it would be still better to have a positive impact on these developments. In particular, it is what Ukrainian legal business should consider today, when “reputation is more valuable than money”. Corporate social responsibility is an important factor of shaping the firm’s positive image in the eyes of its counterparts and clients.
Maryna Saprykina, Head of the Center “CSR Development”
What is regarded as Pro Bono services?
The following services may be regarded as Pro Bono services [Australian Pro Bono Centre]:
- free services (or services at the discount) provided to physical persons who are unable to afford such services or to civil society organizations and charity funds representing interests or dealing with matters of social importance;
- services related to making legislative initiatives and/reforms intended to improve life of vulnerable categories of people or persons in need;
- free legal education to representatives of local communities;
- work of a corporate lawyer in civil society organization.
It should be stressed that the following services are not regarded as Pro Bono services (for example, in Australia):
- providing free or discounted legal services to a person or an organization capable of paying for them or for any further commercial benefit;
- the first free of charge consulting with the following services to be paid for at a regular tariff;
- sponsorship of cultural or sport events for business promotion or the time lawyers spend managing a civil society organization;
- if a law firm received payment (for example, from the government or donors) for providing services for persons in need.
Corporate Social Responsibility and Pro Bono
Some international experts distinguish between Pro Bono services and corporate social responsibility explaining that Pro Bono is an ethical responsibility of lawyers, while corporate social responsibility is a corporate responsibility of a firm. However, as a whole, Pro Bono services may be a part of the corporate social responsibility program of law firms, under which such law firms help and encourage their lawyers to provide such services.
Pro Bono and law firms
Pro Bono services in Ukraine as well as in the United States are not obligatory. However, the American Bar Association has established norm of Pro Bono hours per lawyer – 50 hours (Code of Business Ethics). Main priority areas of Pro Bono services in the USA are: family matters, contracts and wills (service for low-income persons) – 28%, consulting to civil society organizations – 18%, consumers consulting – 16%. The longest hours to Pro Bono services are dedicated by lawyers of firms staffed with over 101 persons.
It is worth mentioning that in Ukraine within Pro Bono Awards Contest held by the “Development of Corporate Social Responsibility” Center (Yurydychna Gazeta’s partner in 2016) we identified law firms that provided 130 hours of Pro Bona services per lawyer per year. Among 30 Pro Bono practices collected over years of the contest, we may name the firms providing Pro Bono services to physical persons as well as to civil society organizations (International Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine) or international organizations (office of High Commissioner for Refugees), and public institutions (Ministry of Economic Development and Trade). Some companies are involved in legal education. Besides, Bro Bono exchange is established in Ukraine and is intended to coordinate cooperation between companies and civil society organizations - the Pro Bono Clearing House.
Why should we introduce Pro Bono?
In today’s world Pro Bono is accepted as obligatory ethical obligation of a lawyer. 88% of lawyers providing Pro Bono services are satisfied with doing consulting work. So, Pro Bono projects may become a wonderful tool to raise satisfaction of employees with their work in the company, and a tool to attract and retain talented employees. Besides, Pro Bono projects help the companies to establish relations with local communities and get involved in community activities.
How should Pro Bono be developed in Ukraine?
In Ukraine, Pro Bono services should be more widely communicated, practices should be shown (it is exactly what is done by Pro Bono Awards contest) and lawyers should be educated to implement Pro Bono programs in their companies. A Pro Bono norm should be approved by law associations for law firms, and regular annual monitoring of Pro Bono hours of law firms should be carried out.