Pro bono legal work - what's fair?

Reprinted from the 1/22/99 edition of the Christian Science Monitor

Pro bono legal work-what's fair?

Regarding, "Should lawyers be required to work for free?" (Jan 13): What an interesting about-face is being executed by the general public, as reflected in the issue of mandated pro bono (free) legal services being considered by the Colorado Supreme Court.

For years the public has vilified attorneys. Now the public cries out for enforced labor by the legal profession, and the courts follow the mob by bowing to social popularity more often than exercising independent judgement.

Enforced pro bono work deprives an attorney of the traditional right to refuse a case in which he does not believe.

From my experience in a private law practice for more than 30 years, I have observed that pro bono work is performed by the vast majority of attorneys in private practices. Often this is at the request of a community leader, such as a local minister. Or it comes about by serving on a charitable board or acting as counsel, without pay, for a community endeavor.

Why shift the burden which society has created (of offering pro bono legal services) from society to the attorneys? Let society pay for its principles by diverting a small portion of its tax dollars to fund the various Legal Aid Societies to use their finite resources to identify and serve those that are truly in need of free services.

Another idea would be to offer attorneys tax credits for volunteering time for free legal services.

Richard Corash

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