More Advice to the Young Criminal Defense Lawyer — Part 3. Volunteer, Low Bono, and Pro Bono


The third of Adam Levin’s questions that young criminal-defense lawyers might have:
“Do you perform volunteer, pro bono, or low bono work? Why or why not?”

While defending people in the criminal courts, even for pay, is for the public good (so that we don’t need as many karma offsets as others). As a criminal-defense lawyer helping people, you will be doing a tremendous amount of ad hoc pro bono work. It’s part of the nature of the business — people will call you needing legal advice short of formal representation. Beyond that, criminal-defense lawyers should do volunteer, pro bono, or low bono work, as the spirit moves them.
For more formal representation, I have found “low-bono” to be a better idea than pro-bono because people are much more satisfied with the representation they get when they are paying something for it. Almost everyone can afford to pay something; if you can give the client more satisfaction by charging her what she can afford (even if it’s an amount inconsequential to you), you’re doing her a disservice by representing her for free.

Unlike lawyers in most other fields, criminal-defense lawyers don’t have to go looking for low bono work; it comes to them. People will often call asking if you do pro bono work. Think of them as telephonic panhandlers. But, as I wrote here, the people who need our help so badly that we feel compelled to give it for free are never the ones who ask for it; they are the ones who want to pay, have some money to pay, but don’t have enough to hire someone competent.

Lots of people will call without the money to hire you. When you see a case in which someone is going to really get the shaft because she doesn’t have the money to hire competent counsel, consider taking the case (rather than leaving her to the mercies of the letter lawyers and V-6s) for whatever she can pay.


0 responses to “More Advice to the Young Criminal Defense Lawyer — Part 3. Volunteer, Low Bono, and Pro Bono”

  1. I found your information very interesting. I have been looking for a good Lawyer for my bestfriend who is still incarcarated over something he didn’t do. But every Lawyer I have talked to wants $25,000 – $60,000 before they will even take the case granted they tell me it’s very winable but they want money. I live on a fixed income and I can’t afford that kind of money. He doesn’t have any family to speak of I have been his family for eleven years. I am not saying he is perfect but I can’t just stand back and watch him go back to prison when he was doing so good. I don’t even know if you check this page anymore but if you do and you know of somebody that can help me please have them contact me ASAP .
    Thankyou for your time and God Bless You!
    Rachael Guilbeault
    [email protected]
    todays date is August 22, 2007

  2. your website caught my attention. it’s good to know that there are people willing to help out people they don’t know for free. it shows god’s goodness is here. i have been paying my fiance’s lawyer for a year now. he has recieved $21,000 and the case ended in a hung jury. now i have 1 week to come up with $15,000 more so we can go to trail again. something that is impossible for me to come up with in such a short amount of time. if you have any suggestions it would be greatly appreciated. may god bless you all who help so freely and willingly

  3. I am looking for a pro bono lawyer for my son’s father who is currently incarcerated. Several lawyers that I have talked to have agreed that his punishment does not fit the crime; however, I am not able to come up with the money necessary to help him. It would be greatly appreciated if someone could refer me or give me some sought of suggestions as to what to do. Thank you for your time and God bless you…..

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