What Defines Pro Bono

Pro bono publico (usually shortened to “pro bono”)is a Latin term meaning “for the public good”. As it relates to the practice of law in Montana, it is generally a designation given to the free legal work done by an attorney for indigent clients and religious, charitable, and other nonprofit entities.

Attorneys who are licensed to practice law in the state of Montana are bound by the Montana Rules of Professional Conduct as ordered by The Supreme Court of the State of Montana. Rule 6.1 specifically addresses the professional responsibility of Montana lawyers to provide legal services for those unable to pay.  Read the Montana Pro Bono FAQs here.

Every lawyer has a professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay. A lawyer should render at least [50] hours of pro bono publico legal services per year. In fulfilling this responsibility, the lawyer should:

  1. provide a substantial majority of the [50] hours of legal services without fee or expectation of fee to:
    1. persons of limited means; or
    2. charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental and educational organizations in matters which are designed primarily to address the needs of persons of limited means; and
  2. provide additional services through:
    1. delivery of legal services at no fee or substantially reduced fee to individuals, groups or organizations seeking to secure or protect civil rights, civil liberties or public rights, or charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental and education organizations in matters in furtherance of their organizational purposes, where the payment of standard legal fees would significantly deplete the organization's economic resources or would be otherwise inappropriate;
    2. delivery of legal services at a substantially reduced fee to persons of limited means; or
    3. participation in activities for improving the law, the legal system or legal profession. In addition, a lawyer should voluntarily contribute financial support to organizations that provide legal services to persons of limited means.

Originally drafted using the American Bar Association Model Rules of Professional Conduct, the Montana Rules were revised in 2003 revising the first sentence to read “A lawyer should render at least…”, replacing the former “A lawyer should aspire to render at least…”. This change clarified the commitment of the Montana Bar and the judiciary to pro bono service.