* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.
In the Czech Republic, a number of local and international law firms, as well as individual lawyers, undertake pro bono work and assist those who find themselves in extremely difficult situations and would not otherwise have access to justice.
The Czech Republic has not adopted a comprehensive act on pro bono legal services. Therefore, the regulation of pro bono legal services is split into several procedural acts pursuant to which individuals who are unable to pay their legal fees are eligible for state legal aid that can be provided to them by qualified lawyers appointed for particular court cases by the competent courts.
Individuals who for whatever reason are not eligible to receive legal aid from court-appointed lawyers and yet find themselves in difficult situations can ask the Czech Bar Association to appoint qualified lawyers to provide legal services to them for a reduced legal fee or free of charge. Unlike court-appointed lawyers who can be appointed only in a pending court trial, the Czech Bar Association can also appoint lawyers to provide legal aid in pre-trial phases.
Besides appointing lawyers in particular cases, the Czech Bar Association organises the provision of basic pro bono legal advice for those who find themselves in a difficult legal situation and need to find their bearings. This type of pro bono service is generally provided in short fifteen-minute meetings during which lawyers provide individuals with an initial overview of their rights and obligations in their cases.
While the above legal aid system covers many cases, there are still many individuals who need legal aid free of charge, but are unaware of the system or their eligibility for pro bono legal services, or who are not eligible for such pro bono legal aid. These individuals can seek help from non-profit organisations that cooperate with law firms or individual lawyers. They do this either directly or through pro bono clearinghouses, which act as intermediaries between NGOs and participating law firms and lawyers.
Although few law firms have a separate pro bono practice, the number of lawyers who believe it is their ethical and social responsibility to assist those who need legal aid, and the number of pro bono hours worked, is increasing gradually.