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Pro Bono service is free legal help provided to people who don't have enough money to pay for legal services. The Missouri Bar has always encouraged Missouri lawyers to consider pro bono work as a professional responsibility that comes with being licensed as an attorney. Lawyers working pro bono are sometimes the only way that poor and powerless people can assert their rights in our society. Pro bono lawyers help people avoid losing their homes; they help abused spouses free themselves from marriages that endanger their children; they help elderly people receive the government benefits they have earned and need. With reduced financial resources being made available to legal services offices throughout Missouri, this obligation to serve the public has become even more important.
The Missouri Bar does not and cannot require its members to provide free legal services, but it does set an aspirational goal of 40 hours of pro bono service each year for attorneys. Some attorneys do far more. A study conducted by a researcher at the University of Missouri-Columbia concludes that the lawyers of Missouri each provide an average of 42 hours of pro bono legal help to clients and their communities each year. This translates into $50 million dollars worth of free legal services to the poor annually.
The state's Legal Aid offices rely on the extra assistance that pro bono lawyers provide. Lawyers throughout the state have signed up with their local Legal Aid office and accept pro bono cases from Legal Aid. Occasionally – such as when natural disasters occur – The Missouri Bar recruits pro bono lawyers to provide free legal help to victims.
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Paid for by The Missouri Bar Sebrina Barrett, Executive Director PO Box 119 Jefferson City, MO 65102