Pro Bono in South Africa

Publication Type:

Book Chapter


Global Pro Bono: Causes, Context, and Contestation, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, p.535–569 (2022)





Law / Ethics & Professional Responsibility, Law / General, Law / International


<p>This chapter explores issues related to the state of pro bono legal services and access to justice in South Africa. As is made clear in this book, what is referred to as &ldquo;pro bono&rdquo; comes from the Latin pro bono publico, meaning &ldquo;for the public good.&rdquo; It describes legal work undertaken by legal practitioners without remuneration or at significantly below-market rates as a public service for individuals or organizations who cannot afford to pay. In the South African context, the concept of pro bono must be understood alongside specific constitutional provisions as well as against the structure of the legal profession. In our view, increasing access to justice for the poor, marginalized, and indigent individuals and communities should be seen by members of the South African legal community as an essential component to fulfilling not only their civic duty but also their constitutional obligations. Our understanding of pro bono includes aspirations of access to justice with the legal profession playing a part in its realization. This can only be made real for all people living in South Africa if they have access to legal representation, and much of the private legal profession understands and acknowledges that it has an obligation in this regard. Pro bono practice is therefore a necessary institution for addressing access to justice. It is not, however, sufficient. Pro bono practice must be augmented by the work of paralegals and extended to the particular South African vision of community service, which itself does aspire to implement and achieve access to justice.</p>