What Is “Pro Bono”?
Pro bono is a Latin term, which many make the mistake of assuming stands for ‘free’. In fact, ‘pro bono’ translates to ‘for the public good’. If a law firm offers pro bono work, they are offering their services for free, often to clients of limited means or community bodies. This work often does not pay at all, let alone well – though certain firms may be sponsored by charities and organisations in order to provide pro bono services, and some lawyers may work on contingency, meaning they receive a portion of anything awarded given a successful trial.
Pro bono work is not only vital to underserved communities, but also to law firms themselves – offering to work for free enables younger partners in a firm to gain hands-on experience in a courtroom, while the firm can diversify its portfolio and connections. Working pro bono for local organisations and needy communities can also improve a firm’s standing, and increase its profile. Of course, the major benefits are noticed by the clients, who receive representation they truly need without the requisite funds.
Pro Bono in Practice
Global corporate law firm Squire Patton Boggs is a textbook example of the benefits pro bono work can provide to a wider community, with the recent launch of their Pro Bono Patent Program, an initiative designed to assist upcoming inventors with little access to legal funds in applying for patents.
The new Pro Bono Patent Program has resulted in a milestone for the corporate law firm, with its first patent application secured in by the end of September 2021. The patent application is for a herbal pain relief alternative and healing remedy for HSV, invented by a recent immigrant to the US by the name of Beatriz Carrasco Nino. Her limited financial standing and knowledge of the legal system left here with few avenues to submitting a patent application – which is where Squire Patton Boggs stepped in.
The patent application is a landmark for the firm, and especially prescient given growing discussion regarding the severe lack of diversity in US inventors. The Pro Bono Patent Program was led by Squire Patton Boggs IP partner Tamara Fraizer, who had this to say of the news: “We are delighted to be able to leverage the expertise of our patent attorneys for the benefit of diverse and deserving inventors, in support of the USPTO’s efforts to expand access to the patent system.”
Paving the Way for the Common Good
Firms like Squire Patton Boggs are forging a new kind of path in the field of pro bono legal work, wherein systemic injustices are being recognized and overturned. Where pro bono work may have been a charity sponsorship, or a client at a time, programs like the Pro Bono Patent Program have a wider, more profound effect – redressing the balance for an equitable society.