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What Are Pro Bono Services?


Question: What Are Pro Bono Services?
Answer: Most people hear the term "pro bono" and think of attorneys offering their services for free to help someone right a wrong. The complete term is "pro bono publico" which is Latin for, for "the public good" and in no way exclusively applies, or refers to, the legal profession.

Many online dictionaries associate their definitions of pro-bono services with legal services. For example, BusinessDictionary.com defines pro bono services as:

Providing free service (usually legal work) in the interest of a public or deserving cause.

A North Carolina government website offers this misleading definition: "performing or involving free legal services."

While "free legal services" is an example of pro bono services, it is not the definition for the term.

Wikipedia offers the good definition of pro bono: Pro bono publico (usually shortened to pro bono) is a phrase derived from Latin meaning "for the public good". The term is generally used to describe professional work undertaken voluntarily and without payment as a public service.

Pro bono services were once thought of almost exclusively as noble services offered by attorneys, but pro bono services are now commonly offered to start, grow, and brand businesses from a wide variety of industries.

A Pro Bono Definition Missing From Most Pro Bono Definitions

One thing most dictionary definitions of pro bono services does not make clear is that doing something for your next door neighbor for free is not a pro bono service.

From a tax standpoint, pro bono services are donated to charitable organizations or causes. The IRS treats pro bono services and free or discounted services differently and uses separate guidelines that govern how you an deduct associated costs and expenses.

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