Pro Bono Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How To Use It

In this guide, you’ll be given a deeper understanding of the meaning of pro bono with definitions, examples, synonyms, antonyms, and much more.

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Some words are familiar to us from movies, books, and fictional situations — but unless your professional life or experience is involved in a related field, you don’t know much about it definition outside of a fictional context. 

To give these words more depth, it’s worth diving into their true meaning and how to use it. When you hear it again, it’ll carry more weight for you. If you’re not a lawyer, you may not have this depth of understanding for the word pro bono.

What Is the Meaning of Pro Bono?

As a law student at Georgetown *or any other law school), you would learn that the term pro bono is a shortened version of the Latin phrase “pro bono publico.” This translates to mean “for the public good.” It can be used as an adjective in various contexts.

Pro bono (adj) is a descriptive word for professional work or professional services that are done or performed typically for the public good. You’ll hear it most often in legal work, but it can involve work donated in other fields as well. 

The most basic concept that most people understand about pro bono work is that it is done free of charge for the recipient.

What Is the Origin of the Word Pro Bono?

Etymology is the history of a word. It’s interesting to see how a word evolves over time and what remains the same. You may find that a word’s definition has stayed the same, but the pronunciation has changed. Some words change entirely over time, and other words are shortened or take on additional meanings. 

Pro bono is a shortened version of the Medieval Latin pro bono publico which, as we’ve learned, meant “for the public good.” It is easy to understand the translation of pro bono when you look at each part of the phrasal word:

  • Pro (prep) or pro: Meaning “on behalf of” or “for”
  • Bono: The ablative of bonum meaning “good”

Where Can You Find Pro Bono Services?

Pro bono is often most associated with legal services, but many financial institutions have pro bono programs. Here are a few examples of Pro Bono in the world:

Pro Bono and the FPA

The Financial Planning Association (FPA) is a professional organization that is based in the United States that began in 2000. 

The FPA’s pro bono program provides financial services like financial planning with financial professionals or financial planners to lower-income individuals and families that could not otherwise afford to hire a professional.

Pro Bono in Law

Of course, pro bono activity does typically relate to the legal profession. Lawyers and attorneys provide legal aid, legal assistance, or legal support pro bono for individuals who are dealing with legal problems. 

In South Korea, lawyers are required to perform at least 30 hours of pro bono work each year. In the United Kingdom, law schools have a whole week to celebrate pro bono work and bring awareness to pro bono services. 

In the United States, the American Bar Association (ABA) has ethical rules that recommend lawyers perform at least 50 hours of pro bono work each year. The ABA also sponsors a Pro Bono Week every year in October that is similar to the Pro Bono Week in the UK. 

Pro Bono in Universities

Some universities provide pro bono services with a legal clinic that offers legal help for people who need legal documentation under the supervision of an attorney. For example, clinics are offered to the elderly to help them write their last will and testament, to determine the distribution of their assets and the legal recipients of their belongings as a pro bono service. 

Where Else Is Pro Bono Work Important?

As a matter of ethics, it is widely considered the professional responsibility of lawyers, attorneys, and paralegals to provide quality services via pro bono services in their area of law. Some important areas that pro bono work is needed include:

  • Civil matters
  • Family law
  • Immigration law

These services should be provided with the same integrity and confidentiality as other cases. 

What Are the Synonyms for the Word Pro Bono?

Synonyms are the best tools we have for avoiding the redundant use of a word in speech or text. Synonyms have essentially the same meaning as the related words, and when you know the synonyms of a word, you have a deeper understanding of all the meaning a word can have. 

Here are some synonyms for the word pro bono:

  • Free
  • Gratis
  • Unpaid
  • Free of charge
  • Without charge
  • Unrewarded
  • For nothing
  • Donated
  • Uncompensated

What Are the Antonyms for the Word Pro Bono?

Antonyms have the opposite meaning of a word, so if you need to convey that something is not pro bono, antonyms can help you do just that without being so blunt. 

Here are some antonyms for the word pro bono:

  • Paid
  • Costly
  • Expensive
  • High

What Are Some Examples for How To Use the Word Pro Bono?

Example sentences help see how and when to use a word in context. Even though you might be familiar with using a word, it’s always a good idea to review example sentences. There may be other ways to use the word correctly that will broaden your use and increase your knowledge of the word’s meaning. 

Here are some examples of how to use the word pro bono in a sentence:

  • She listed her many hours of pro bono service on her resume.
  • Her relieved smile was all the compensation he needed for the many hours of pro bono work he had done to win this case for her.
  • Keep up with the number of pro bono hours you work because they may be tax-deductible.
  • I do a lot of pro bono work for this non-profit organization.
  • It’s pro bono week at the office.

The Last Word

If you hear or read pro bono again in the future, you’ll know exactly what it means. Armed with all that you’ve learned here, you can use the word pro bono with confidence, and you will be able to ask if something is pro bono because you already know what that means. 


  1. What is Pro Bono? | Georgetown Law 
  2. Definition of Pro Bono | Berkeley Law 
  3. Attorney vs. Lawyer Definition | Lawyer EDU