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What is pro bono work?

„Pro bono means the provision of legal advice free of charge in respect of a good cause. Pro bono work includes the advice and representation of non-profit organizations, NGOs (non-governmental organizations), foundations and needy private individuals as well as commitment to encourage and expand the principle of the rule of law and human rights. Pro bono work aims to provide a law firm’s knowledge and resources for a good cause and to deploy civic involvement within professional activities. Pro bono legal advice is subject to the same professional standards as legal advice against payment is“. (Understanding of the term by the lawyers organized as the Frankfurt „Pro Bono Round Table“).

In Germany, it is often argued that lawyers, in particular attorneys-at-law, are not permitted to work pro bono, i.e. at no charge. However, this is not the case. Pro bono work is explicitly permitted pursuant to Section § 6 German Legal Services Act (Rechtsdienstleistungsgesetz (RDG)), and lawyers are not prohibited to provide pro bono work pursuant to Section 49b para. 1 German Federal Lawyers’ Act (Bundesrechtsanwaltsordnung (BRAO)). In this context, reference is made to the detailed paper entitled “Rechtsberatung pro bono publico in Deutschland - eine Bestandsaufnahme“ (Legal advice pro bono publico in Germany – an appraisal) by the lawyers Dr. Klian Bälz, Dr. Henning Moelle and Dr. Finn Zeidler, published in “Neue Juristische Wochenschrift” (NJW) 2008, pages 3383 to 3388.

In addition, the founder and coordinator of this initiative believes the lawyers, who are voluntary active in favor of environmental protection, also to be active on their own behalf, insofar they are themselves interested in the preservation of environment. The latter should be the case with regard to all lawyers participating in the initiative „Lawyers for Environmental Protection“. By providing legal (assisting) services they contribute to the preservation of their OWN and their children’s environment. However, if a lawyer acts on his/her own behalf no fees have to be invoiced.

Please note that employed lawyers may require an authorization of their additional work in accordance with their respective employment contract in order to provide voluntary legal contribution or advisory services. This has to be reviewed and clarified on an individual basis.

Legal advice by non-lawyers
Section 6 German Legal Services Act allows the provision of legal services at no charge by non-lawyers. Consequently, on the basis of civic involvement everyone is entitled to perform legal services free of charge. Non-lawyers are however excluded from representing a client in court. But they may be active out of court.


At this time, no assessment of the legal situation in respect of pro bono work provided by lawyers in other countries than Germany can be provided. Someone having knowledge and experience in this respect may notify us please. This information would be included on this website.