Low bono, or reduced fee representation for individuals whose incomes are too high to qualify for legal aid, has received growing attention in recent years. Solo and small firm attorneys who regularly provide discounted services or instalment plans for lower income clients have argued that this “stealth pro bono” should be taken into account when calculating bar-mandated pro bono hours.
Debates regarding the efficacy of low bono versus pro bono in fostering access to justice have also emerged. In a recent law review article, prominent low bono advocate Luz Herrera argues that: “Pro bono models do not sufficiently address the inadequacy of affordable legal services by the private bar” and that a “shift from a pro bono to a low bono legal services model would improve access to the judicial system…” Luz Herrera, Rethinking Private Attorney Involvement Through a “Low Bono” Lens, 43 Loyola L.A. L. Rev. 2009, 1.
As full-service low bono law firms pick up steam, will we come to a “some” or “nothing” crossroads? Should certain types of services remain pro bono regardless of ability to pay “something”, i.e. domestic violence?
IBA Pro bono and Access to Justice Committee