Call for pro bono services apt
The advice to newly-qualified lawyers to provide pro bono services has been a topical issue in the country for some time now.
Without going back too long, we would like to make reference to such a call made by the immediate-past Chief Justice, Justice Sophia A. Akuffo, in April 2018.
Then in November 2022, the current Chief Justice, Justice Kwasi Anin-Yeboah, repeated the call.
Just yesterday, Justice Anin-Yeboah re-echoed the call when 196 new legal practitioners were called to the bar after going through mandatory legal education.
Just hours after the current call, a private legal practitioner, Mr Martin Kpebu, urged the new lawyers called to the bar to adhere to Chief Justice Anin-Yeboah’s call to provide free legal counsel.
Why is the call on newly-qualified lawyers to offer pro bono services repeated any time newly-qualified lawyers are being called to the bar?
Does it mean once the lawyers are accepted into the space of legal practice, they rubbish the call and ignore it even when it matters most?
The expression pro bono is said to come from the
Latin phrase “pro bono publico”, which means “for the public good” and in the legal context it generally means the provision of legal services on a free or significantly reduced fee basis, with no expectation of a commercial return.
Considering the fact the concept has history known in the legal education domain, one would conclude that that lawyers are taught this topic and its importance, so it becomes curious why newly-qualified lawyers should be implored, as Justice Anin-Yeboah did yesterday.
Probably, Mr Kpebu’s assertion is the case, when he says pro bono was not stressed that much in school.
We believe any lawyer worth his or her salt should know the country- and community-specific circumstances and problems that can call for pro bono services and expect to experience them.
That established, pro bono services would not sound strange even in the present era when the crave for money has become so high and sometimes even inordinate for obvious reasons.
All those making the call on the lawyers to offer pro bono services have good reasons why that call and even offer advice on ways to do it.
For instance, in 2018 Justice Sophia Akuffo told new lawyers to first be ADR mediators in cases when they meet clients and make them amiable before going to court, if that becomes the option.
Also, Chief Justice Anin-Yeboah in November last year asked lawyers to help the vulnerable in society who need legal assistance but do not have the resources to do so in order for them to attain justice and equality before the law.
We support the call forpro bono services and would like to refer to an assertion by the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service as our reason.
According to the association, “When society confers the privilege to practise law on an individual, he or she accepts the responsibility to promote justice and to make justice equally accessible to all people. Thus, all lawyers should aspire to render some legal services without fee or expectation of fee for the good of the public.”