Pro Bono Attorneys: Not always Free

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Pro bono attorneys could be lawyers who take on lawsuits in anticipation of a monetary settlement to which they would be entitled a percentage.

This practice is fairly common in specific types of court cases like personal injury cases, and in large class action lawsuits, but pro bono lawyers are very selective in the cases they take on, usually looking for VERY large cash settlements or a charitable case that will make a name for themselves.

Even if presenting themselves as a Pro Bono lawyer, they will typically require the client to pay for some of the administrative costs in advance. Such as the cost to file the lawsuit, take depositions, and obtain needed evidence. In some cases, even these costs would be paid for by the attorney up-front and then deducted later from the anticipated settlement or court ruling.

In addition to the administrative costs, pro bono lawyers can also charge a fee of 25% – 40% or more, usually dependent on whether the case settles out of court or requires actual litigation.

What’s the Difference Between a Pro Bono Attorney and a Contingency Lawyer?

A pro bono attorney and a contingency lawyer are types of lawyers who provide services under different payment arrangements, but generally at a much lower rate, if not free.

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Pro Bono Attorney:

A pro bono attorney, short for “pro bono publico,” is a lawyer who provides legal services for free or at a significantly reduced fee to clients who cannot afford to pay for legal representation. Pro bono work is typically done to help individuals or causes that serve the public interest. These attorneys may volunteer their time through legal aid organizations, nonprofits, or bar associations, or they may take on pro bono cases individually. The goal is to ensure that access to justice is available to those who might otherwise be unable to afford legal assistance.

Contingency Lawyer:

A contingency lawyer works on a “contingency fee” basis. This means that they agree to represent a client in a legal matter without requiring payment upfront. Instead, the lawyer’s fee is contingent upon the successful outcome of the case. If the case is successful and the client receives a monetary settlement or judgment, the lawyer is entitled to a percentage of that amount as their fee. If the case is unsuccessful, the lawyer typically does not receive a fee, though the client may still be responsible for other expenses incurred during the legal process, such as court filing fees or expert witness fees.

It’s All About the Fee Agreement

The key difference between a pro bono attorney and a contingency lawyer is the fee arrangement. Pro bono attorneys provide their services for free or at reduced rates as a form of charity or public service. Contingency lawyers only charge a fee if they win your case and and therefore tend to turn down cases they feel are not a “sure win”.