Pro Bono Legal Work in Brazil: Discourse, practice and limits, 2005-2017

Abstract The aim of this article is to describe, analyze and explain the pro bono discourse and practices articulated and implemented in Brazil between 2005 and 2017. In order to achieve this aim, the article is divided into three parts. In the first part we describe and examine the context in which pro bono work is immersed in Brazil. This section briefly describes the constitutional framework that controls the right to access to justice, the weaknessess of the Brazilian public defender’s system, and presents the central moments in the history of the regulation of pro bono work in the country. In the second part, we describe and analyze the pro bono discourse and practices embraced by the Pro Bono Institute of Brazil (IPB), and the law firms and independent lawyers affiliated to the Institute. In this section, the core of the article, we describe and examine the concept of pro bono law endorsed by the lawyers affiliated to the IPB. Likewise, this section describes the type and amount of pro bono work carried out by law firms, their relationship with the Pro Bono Declaration of the Americas, the characteristics of the pro bono programs that law firms have articulated within their business structures, the sources of their pro bono work, and the obstacles they encounter in carrying out this type of activity. Likewise, this section describes the types of pro bono cases and the number of hours that independent lawyers work, as well as the obstacles that prevent them from doing more or better pro bono work. In this section, we also describe and analyze the structure of the Pro Bono Institute, its programs, finances, the way in which affiliated lawyers evaluate the Institute’s work, and the obstacles that its employees face in order to realize the Institute’s mission. Finally, in the third part, we offer some brief conclusions.