Steps to Get Legal Assistance

1. Complete NGO screening form

2. Work with PILnet to prepare pro bono request

3. Connect with lawyers in PILnet's pro bono network

4. Collaborate on meaningful public interest projects

Questions & Answers

What is a pro cono clearinghouse?

Pro bono clearinghouses broker free advice and services from qualified legal professionals to support nonprofit and social change organizations in need of both discrete legal assistance and deeper collaborations.

What are the specific goals and principles of a clearinghouse?

  • to improve access to justice
  • to provide legal advice to all, regardless of race, religion, politics, background or creed
  • to promote the rule of law and the use of law as a tool to achieve social justice
  • to act independently of governments, funders, law firms, NGOs and other groups
  • to raise awareness of pro bono work
  • to educate people about the law and development

What kind of pro bono support is available?

Pro bono support comes in many forms and usually takes place outside of the courtroom. Pro bono projects fall into four broad categories: legal advice and advocacy, legal research, legal analysis and drafting, and legal training. NGOs might require help with a project which combines some, or all of these elements.

Who is eligible to provide pro bono through these clearinghouses?

In order to take up a case, lawyers must be qualified to practice and working in a law firm, company, or as solo practitioners or barristers.

Other individuals (paralegals, trainee lawyers, and law students) may only provide pro bono assistance if they have appropriate supervision by a qualified lawyer, in an arrangement that is recognized as legal by an appropriate bar association/law practice regulatory scheme.

How do PILnet’s clearinghouses work in practice?

In order to ensure the legitimacy of our listings, we begin by having one of our in-house legal officers screen each nonprofit’s credentials. Once approved, PILnet individually works with the nonprofit to help define its legal needs. This cooperation leads to the creation of a matter, which is a short summary describing the organization, the request and any other pertinent information, such as the jurisdiction and the timeframe. The matters are pooled into a monthly listing that goes out to PILnet’s pro bono network. Once connections are made, PILnet also cultivates the relationship to increase the organization’s legal capacity to create a more sustained and strategic use of private sector legal advice.

Joining is easy. If firms or individual lawyers want to receive the list of pro bono opportunities, PILnet will simply add your email address to the distribution list. There is no membership or other fee required. The list is open to all lawyers and law firms who want to review opportunities.

How do I start a clearinghouse in my region or jurisdiction?

For more information on clearinghouses, please consult the online Pro Bono Clearinghouse Manual, developed by PILnet in collaboration with Advocates for International Development (A4ID).