Lawyers' Obligation to Provide Legal Services


  • Justice J.C. Major



This article addresses ethical concerns in the legal profession and the challenge of not only providing legal services, but ensuring that the public has access to them. The author asserts that the whole profession is under an obligation to render legal services pro bono publico. Such has been the tradition since the beginning of the profession in thirteenth century Europe. The article follows the history of pro bono work since medieval times, and compares the system in the United States with that in Canada. In the U.S. there is a greater commitment by firms to provide pro bono work, whereas in Canada, it tends to be on a more ad hoc basis. Canadian lawyers too often assume that government-funded legal aid systems adequately meet the public's needs. Legal aid, however, is facing increasing financial challenges. Moreover, a large number of Canadians who do not meet the eligibility requirements cannot afford to retain a lawyer. There is a need for a modified pro bono program that will assist not only the poor, but the working class as well.