What is Pro bono?
The term "Pro Bono" is generally used to describe professional legal aid work under taken voluntarily and without payment or at a low cost to vulnerable or under privileged persons. Pro Bono services in Uganda are premised on the fact that significant proportion of the Ugandan population lives in abject poverty.
Why do Advocates Participate in Pro bono?
- The most compelling reason to participate in pro bono work is to provide legal services to the indigent, vulnerable and marginalized population as a professional responsibility to provide representation for those in need.
- Pro bono work is stimulating , challenging and meaningful work, lawyers give back to the community, which enhances morale and allows lawyers to connect to clients and communities in various ways.
- Pro bono work opens a new world of opportunities by introducing advocates to people and cases they would never encounter in their normal practices.
- Pro bono also has practical benefits, including opportunities for professional development. Frequently pro bono lawyers acquire training, mentoring and other experiences in their pro bono casess that help them in their ordinary practice such as interviewing, negotiation and courtroom advocacy.
- Pro bono work also demonstrates good corporate citizenship by law firms which can enhance their profile and standing in their communities.
- The scheme recognizes pro bono advocates who provide distinguished pro bono service and contribution through awarding the pro bono award to such advocates.
Procedures for Handling Pro bono Matters;
Once an advocate expresses interest in handling pro bono matters, they go through the following procedure:
The advocate is enrolled into the scheme; his/her name is entered into the scheme's database indicating the particulars and area of interest or expertise.
The Advocate is required to sign a confidentiality and advocate acceptance form. This agrees not to disclose any confidential information he has received during the course of his participation in the pro bono scheme.
The scheme contacts the advocates and refers to him/her a file for an identified indigent person.
An initial meeting between the advocate and client is arranged by the scheme to extensively discuss the matter with the client and take instructions.
The advocate submits regular updates about the progress of the file using case progress forms provided by the scheme.
What do pro bono services entail?
Under the pro bono regulations, pro bono services require giving free of charge legal services of forty hours in a calendar year to an indigent person. Free legal services may include:
- Giving advice or providing representation to indigent persons.
- Participating in providing free legal education to the community;
- Involvement in giving free legal advice or representation to a charitable or community organisation or to a client of such an organization.
Uganda Law Society Pro Bono Scheme
This is a project based at the Uganda Law society that is responsible for providing administration and coordination of pro bono legal services between indigent persons in need of legal services and advocates that are prepared and able to assist them.
The ULS pro bono scheme draws its authority from the Law council which has the mandate to enforce and regulate the provision of legal services in Uganda.
Important to note (Pro bono)
- It is required of an advocate to personally represent a pro bono client in a case he is assigned by the pro bono scheme.
- A pro bono matter closes when the case is completed , a matter is resolved or the client with draws instructions.
- Where the advocate obtains a judgment in favour of the client, he or she shall return the file to the scheme for formal execution.
- An advocate shall immediately notify the scheme when a matter is complete, instructions are terminated, an advocate leaves the firm and reallocation is sought, it is important for an advocate to readily provide these updates to pro bono scheme to allow necessary changes to be made in its system.
Disbursements, costs Disbursements, costs and awards instruction fees
Advocates should not charge any instructions fees for pro bono work.
Advocates should not charge clients any disbursements when handling pro bono matters, all disbursements will be met by the scheme. Disbursements cover transport,airtime, photocopying, government fees such as search fees, expert fees and court fees.Where an advocate incurs expenses that fall with in the agreed disbursements determined by the scheme, he shall make a requisition to the scheme for reimbursement.
Where court awards costs to a pro bono client, the regulations require that such costs will be deposited into the pro bono scheme. The advocate is not entitled to a share of the costs.
In respect of a monetary award granted in favor of an indigent person either by judicial judgment, mediation or private settlement the proceeds shall be distributed by first, a restitution of the amount claimed by the indigent person, then exemplary damages paid ti the indigent person.
FAQs Pro bono
Do pro bono services cover every area of law?
No, not all areas are covered. Pro bono services cover the following broad professional areas:
- Administrative Law
- Business law in relation to non profit making organisations.
- Child care and protection
- Criminal law
- Debt claims
- Employment and industrial law
- Family and succession law
- Human rights
- Lpurpose.and rights
- Environment and health
- Any other area approved by the law council or a body delegated by the law council for that
Who qualifies for pro bono services?
For a person to qualify, they must go through an assessment conducted by the Pro bono scheme of the Uganda Law Society. This assessment is known as a means and merit test that is aimed at establishing if the person is indeed indigent by asking them questions about their income and assets. The test also allows the person to explain the nature of the legal problem in order for the scheme to determine if the case has merit.
Who is required to provide Pro bono services?
- An advocate of good standing is required to provide pro bono services free of charge to an indigent person each year.
- The above duty does not apply to advocates who have been suspended or have been placed on the inactive list for incapacity not related to discipline.
How does an advocate participate in the Pro bono scheme?
- By contacting the Uganda law society pro bono scheme offices for enrollment. Once enrolled the ULS will place your name into their database of pro bono advocates. An advocate is considered to have successfully done pro bono work when:
- He or she renders 40 hrs of pro bono work in a calendar year. These 40 hrs are computed by ULS to the handling two files in a calendar year.
- He or she participates in community sensitization drives or campaigns, duty counsel and public interest litigation.
Who is an indigent person?
An indigent person is one who cannot afford the services of a lawyer but actually in need of them.
What resources and support are available for pro bono advocates?
- Case management support to advocates participating in the program.ULS pro bono scheme may be contacted for any inquiries or assistance.
- Continuous specialised training programs in pro bono for advocates.
- Pro bono advocates are paid allowable disbursements and expenses such as court fees, airtime, document production, discovery costs, expert fees, transport and other related costs.