Versita

PRO BONO WORK VS. LEGAL AID: APPROACHES TO ENSURING ACCESS TO JUSTICE AND THE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY OF THE ATTORNEY

Edita Gruodytė, Stefan Kirchner
Keywords: Pro bono work, legal aid, attorney, social responsibility, justice ,

Abstract

In many jurisdictions middle- and low-income individuals obtain only a relatively modest share of lawyers’ services. In a society ruled by law, every person should be able to expect key principles of justice to apply. Among the most important dimensions of a right to a fair trial is the right to equal access to an attorney. After all, the attorney is not merely a commercial actor but also represents the legal system. Access to an attorney is a key step in providing justice in practice. Many states have developed programs of legal aid which aim at providing those who are in need of legal assistance but cannot afford to pay for legal services with a way to receive legal services. Scientific literature distinguishes various forms and instruments of legal aid: the court appointment of lawyers, free or low cost legal aid provided by public agencies and charitable and fraternal organizations, sometimes mixed with legal expenses insurance, contingency fee and the free services of lawyers who are serving pro bono publico. From the perspective of practicing attorneys, this article presents and
compares existing systems of legal assistance in Lithuania and Germany, and their availability and effectiveness, in order to answer the question whether the social responsibility of attorneys and access to justice is obtained.