The Latin phrase "pro bono publico" is a saying which literally means "for the good of the public." It is generally shortened simply as pro bono, which is an adjective that refers to the professional services that are done without any monetary charges.
Although the term is applicable to several classifications of unpaid professional services, it is commonly used to refer to the practice of law. Therefore, the term pro bono lawyer is commonly used when referring to a lawyer that is offering free legal services to those who could not afford high quality legal services.
Pro bono lawyers are usually successful lawyers who are also members of cause-oriented organizations like human rights groups. The pro bono laywers are idealists whose major purpose is to make our society a better place by advocating fairness for all individuals, especially the disenfranchised people. And most of these lawyers are usually activists that are pursuing humanitarian works by legal measures. The causes they pursue could range from political to environmental.
Pro bono attorneys are different from the public attorneys that are provided by the government. The public lawyers are workers who do get compensated for their work. So they are obliged to guard clients not for the reason that they have faith in a humanitarian cause or they pursue idealistic goals. The public attorneys do public service for the reason that it's their work. Although clients receive free services from public lawyers, the attorneys receive compensation by doing their job. Therefore, their work is not free or pro bono.
But, not all pro bono lawyers are necessary idealists or motivated by a cause. Some are required by law or their group. For example, a lawyer that might been convicted of a misdemeanor or some minor crime could be ordered by the court to give community service by providing free legal counsel.
Some states that mandate practicing lawyers a minimum number of hours of free legal service every year. Since the institutionalization of the celebration, there's been a constant increase of attorneys that present pro bono services. In other countries, encouraging pro bono servicesare just limited to the pressure that is exerted by respective bar organizations.