Thursday, 27 August 2009

Pro bono celebrations

There are many occasions to take a critical look at access to justice issues and to challenge why we aren't doing better as a society and as a legal profession in meeting current access to justice needs. Striving to achieve equal access to justice and engaging legal professionals in these efforts should be a constant pursuit. It also is necessary to reflect on the accomplishments we have achieved and energize the legal profession's participation in improving access to justice and delivering pro bono legal services.

Raising awareness and celebrating pro bono efforts serves a number of purposes: it highlights the need for increased funding, it connects individuals and organizations in need of legal services to lawyers able to provide them, it augments the image of the legal profession, and it energizes legal professionals. Many jurisdictions offer annual celebrations that inform the public and celebrate the pro bono work lawyers are doing while also trying to engage and activate further participation by lawyers. In Canada, we host bi-annual conferences ( and also engage in national pro bono week celebrations ( Our colleagues in the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom also have similar celebrations. National pro bono celebrations provide the opportunity to reflect on the values of the legal profession and celebrate ongoing pro bono efforts while challenging the legal profession to do more. Do others have examples of pro bono celebrations and awareness raising events of this nature?

Posted by
Pamela Kovacs
Chair, Canadian Bar Association Pro Bono Committee


  1. Pro bono celebrations are indeed important, for the reasons outlined by Ms. Kovacs. But pro bono gatherings can be even more important in contexts where pro bono is a new or developing concept. Such gatherings serve to celebrate and promote pro bono practice, but also to collectively think through how to adapt the universal values inherent to pro bono practice to new environments. They also help advance partnerships and alliances among private practitioners and others, including civil society organizations that harness the resource of volunteer lawyers to more efficiently and effectively augment access to justice.

    A good example of this kind of event is the European Pro Bono Forum (, organized by my organization, the Public Interest Law Institute (

  2. I had a pleasure to participate in the European Pro Bono Forum organized by the PILI just 10 days ago. It lasted only 2 days, but the amount of information, the networking opportunities, and - maybe first and foremost - the dose of positive energy I got there was so much helpful and inspiring. We actually envisaged there quite ambitious initiatives with people from different countries and with different backgrounds. I am sure we will not spoil the celebrations atmosphere and we will reach success. The Forum confirmed my belief how much important is cooperation between various actors, and that international cooperation is indispensable. For me, born in Poland and based now in Italy, it was interesting enough to see again how much the West can learn from the East...