Pro bono at a large commercial law firm

A quick explanation of the term and some examples of the kinds of charity and community activities it involves in practice

Pro bono is short for "pro bono publico", meaning "for the public good", and is a term used by law firms to refer to free legal advice and assistance they provide to individuals and groups who would not otherwise be able to access legal expertise.

The kind of pro bono work that large commercial law firms typically do includes giving advice at community law centres, giving legal advice to charities, working on legal research, and providing free advocacy services.

Pro bono work at a law firm is often part of a broader commitment to corporate social responsibility.

Slaughter and May's pro bono work

To give you an idea of the kind of pro bono projects that a large commercial law firm gets involved in, here's a quick overview of leading City law firm Slaughter and May's pro bono work.

Lawyers at the firm do two main types of pro bono work:

Law centre volunteering

Teams of volunteers from the firm help staff two London law centres and serve as advisers at the Royal Courts of Justice.

Work for charity clients

The firm gives legal support to many different types of charities and community groups, both local and global.

Pro bono for graduates and students

Trainees at Slaughter and May are very involved with these projects - for example, you might find yourself advising once a month at a community law centre in Tower Hamlets, or helping out on a Jamaican capital case appeal.

But you don't have to wait until you're working at a law firm to start making a contribution through pro bono.

Many organisations, for example small charities and free legal advice clinics, really appreciate help from students with knowledge of or an interest in law. Your university or law school is likely to be able to help you find these kinds of opportunities.

Pro bono work is a brilliant way to develop as a budding lawyer, and looks great on training contract applications and trainee appraisal forms.

"It shows an interest in law and legal issues," says Slaughter and May associate Sarah Peazer, "and that you share Slaughter and May's values - you get out there and use your skills to help others. That's something that's respected at this firm, and across the City in general."

Image: Andrea Vail (