Justice Pro Bono is a non-profit organization created in 2008 at the initiative of the Barreau du Québec. Its mission is to mobilize the legal community to provide expertise and time to individuals and non-profit organizations in Québec that lack the resources required to access legal services. Justice Pro Bono seeks to become a key player in improving access to justice in Québec through concrete, consistent actions within the legal community.
Our actions take the form of various projects, including:
- Québec’s first medical-legal partnership, with the Montréal Children’s Hospital;
- A volunteer legal clinic in Québec’s Far North;
- Free legal consultations in partnership with Médecins du Monde;
- Creation and development of the Boussole juridique, an online listing of free or low-cost legal resources in Québec;
- Pairing of citizens’ cases with volunteer lawyers.
Various lawyers’ groups acknowledge their profession’s responsibility in helping improve access to justice by assisting disadvantaged people or organizations that represent the interests of poorer members of our society.
The Canadian Bar Association (CBA) encourages lawyers to do 50 hours of pro bono work per year. – CBA resolution 03-04-M
Meanwhile, the American Bar Association (ABA) takes the following position: “Every lawyer has a professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay. A lawyer should aspire to render at least 50 hours of pro bono publico legal services per year. – ABA Model Rule 6.1
In the United States, lawyers in seven states (Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Mississippi, Nevada and New Mexico) are required to report annually to the appropriate authorities on the hours they devote to pro bono work.
On the initiative of the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice, affiliated with the New York City Bar, law firms are urged to sign the Pro Bono Declaration for the Americas.
In light of the glaring problems of access to justice, and considering the importance of putting the existing pro bono culture among lawyers on a systematic basis, the idea arose of creating a permanent mechanism through which each participating firm or lawyer would pledge to provide a number of hours of free legal services annually, to be “deposited” in a virtual bank of pro bono hours.
Similar programs exist elsewhere, notably in Ontario (www.pblo.org), British Columbia (www.probononet.bc.ca), Alberta (www.pbla.ca), Saskatchewan (www.pblsask.ca) and the United States (www.probono.net).
In Québec, this initiative was launched in April 2005 by Guy Pratte, a partner at Borden Ladner Gervais. Members of the working group included representatives from several other law firms, among them Fasken Martineau Dumoulin, Fraser Milner Casgrain, Heenan Blaikie, McCarthy Tétrault, Miller Thomson, Ogilvy Renault, Osler, Robinson Sheppard and Stikeman Elliott. Representatives from the Barreau du Québec and from the judiciary also took part in the work.
In November 2007, with the agreement of the working group headed by Mr. Pratte, the Barreau du Québec entrusted the running of this project and the setting of its parameters to a committee with the intent of making it a province-wide initiative.
After several months of work, the committee submitted its report. The General Council, at its meeting of September 25, 2008, adopted a resolution creating Justice Pro Bono, a new flagship organization of the Barreau du Québec.
On October 20, 2008, Justice Pro Bono was incorporated under Part III of the Companies Act of Québec.
To learn more, consult our 2017–2018 annual report.