Pro bono legal advice

The Latin term “pro bono publico” (frequently abbreviated to “pro bono”) is used to describe professional services that are rendered free of charge to the benefit of society.

For Pro Bono Deutschland e.V., the term ‚pro bono‘ is restricted to gratuitous legal advice in line with our pro bono definition. Pro bono legal advice is not defined in German law. Pro bono legal advice is committed to meeting the same professional quality, confidentiality and due diligence standards as fee-based legal services.

Definition of pro bono developed by Pro Bono Deutschland e.V.

Pro bono legal advice is gratuitous legal counselling for a good cause and consists of the counselling and representation of non-profit organisations, non-governmental organisations, trust funds and needy individuals who pursue legitimate causes yet do not benefit from the statutory legal aid system, as well as engagement to promote and spread the rule of law and human rights. The aim of the pro bono legal counselling is to make the professional expertise and resources of a law firm available for a good cause, in most cases a charitable cause, and to therewith develop civic engagement as a part of the professional activities. Pro bono legal advice is committed to meeting the same professional quality standards as fee-based legal services. In principle, pro bono legal services are also only rendered in those cases for which no or a very limited one “market” exists. Parties requesting such advisory services are mostly not in a position to bear the costs of legal counselling due to their economic situation or by-laws, or are unwilling to do so on grounds of a preferential use of their funds for their own charitable purposes.

Pro bono legal advice offers

Access to justice
Pro bono legal advice offers access to justice to rganisations with charitable causes and/or working for the common good and individuals with just causes who do not qualify for state funded financial aid.
A positive impact on society by the legal sector
Pro bono legal advice is an opportunity for the legal sector to create a positive impact on society by using its special expertise for the common good.

Pro bono legal advice is not

A substitute for any type of state funded financial legal aid
Pro bono legal advice is meant to supplement state-funded types of legal aid. It offers access to justice to charitable organisations and individuals with just causes who do not qualify for state funded financial aid
Gratuitous legal advice to family and friends
Gratuitous legal advice based on personal relationships usually doesn’t qualify as pro bono legal advice.
General community services / volunteering
General community services or volunteering by lawyers does not qualify as pro bono legal advice as these activities do not establish a lawyer-client-relationship that is governed and protected by the professional legal code of conduct and relevant regulations. These non-legal activities include board memberships (unless they aim at giving pro bono legal advice to the organisation), legal workshops, university lectures, events around legal issues, legal education at school level.
A means to acquire paid legal services
Gratuitous legal advice that is given with the intention of acquiring future paid legal work does not qualify as pro bono legal advice. The following criteria may be used to check whether a legal request qualifies as pro bono legal advice: (i) an organisation does not have the financial resources to pay for the required legal advice nor qualified in-house staff; (ii) the organisation cannot resolve the legal issue(s) itself in its best interest; (iii) the legal work would draw on financial and or human resources within an organisation to the detriment of its statutory mission and objectives.

Pro Bono Deutschland e.V. does not give legal advice itself. We also do not distribute pro bono requests to members or other law firms and lawyers.

Pro Bono Deutschland e.V. does not provide legal advice and does not distribute pro bono requests to its members, other law firms or lawyers.

Legal advice for individuals

Pro bono legal advice for organizations

Under certain circumstances, legal clinics and other law student organisations may be able to offer pro bono legal advice to individuals. Information on legal clinics and other law student organisations and their criteria for accepting pro bono requests can be found on the webpages of „Bund Studentischer Rechtsberater e.V. (BSRB)“ and „Refugee Law Clinics Deutschland“.

State aid for low-income individuals

Low-income individuals may under certain circumstances qualify for state aid. Please visit the webpages of the German Ministry of Justice and for Consumer Protection (Bundesministerium der Justiz und für Verbraucherschutz) to find out more.

Searching for a lawyer

Local Bar Associations (Rechtsanwaltskammern) may be able to help individuals find a lawyer. Some of them offer search engines on their webpages.

The German Lawyers’ Association (Deutscher Anwaltverein) offers a search engine as well (Deutsche Anwaltauskunft).

Additionally, other search engines for lawyers are available online.

Advisory services

In Hamburg, public advisory centres (Öffentliche Rechtsauskunfts- und Vergleichsstellen (ÖRA)) may be able to offer legal services; in Bremen, so-called ‘employee chambers’ (Arbeitnehmerkammern) may be of assistance. In some cases, local courts offer advisory services / public legal advice hours.

Consumer Protection Agencies (Verbraucherzentralen) or Tenant Protection Assocations (Mieterschutzbund) may be able to help in certain areas of the law.

Information on pro bono legal advice for organisations

The German network for Corporate Citizenship and CSR, UPJ e.V., acts as a clearinghouse for pro bono legal advice and has access to a network of pro bono lawyers and law firms. Please visit the clearinghouse webpages for more information on the requirements for placing a pro bono request with UPJ e.V. and a template to register your request with UPJ e.V.
Pro Bono Deutschland e.V. and some of its members sponsor UPJ’s clearinghouse.
Logo UPJ Prp Bono Rechtsberatung