Atlantic Philanthropies
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What We're Learning

Case Study: Giving Hope and Dignity to the Poor: The Story of ProBono.org

Probono.Org

2 March 2010

Probono.org, a South Africa clearing house that seeks to increase access to justice through the pro bono services of law firms, provides a model that substantially reduces public interest law costs since it unlocks private legal expertise, according to this case study commissioned by The Atlantic Philanthropies. Atlantic Philanthropies. ProBono.org is an Atlantic grantee.

by Tom Lebert, Umhlaba Associates

In South Africa, immigrants, farm workers, the rural poor, and the gay community are among the population groups regularly denied access to rights, services and justice. The Atlantic Philanthropies supports organisations that use the law to ensure access for the rural poor to the rights and services promised to them under the democratic Constitution. In practice, this means support for organisations providing free legal advice and support to indigent people in rural communities. In some cases the organisations engage in high-impact litigation to effect change, as well as in lobbying and advocacy to influence policy.

The Atlantic Philanthropies programme seeks to:

  • support a small cluster of best practice public interest and human rights non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and law firms, selected on the basis of geographical reach and niche activities. This will guarantee the target group a sustainable, national infrastructure of legal support
  • support this cluster with an institution-building programme inter alia to secure the longer-term sustainability of participating grantees
  • promote networking and coalition-building among the supported grantees to identify key issues impacting most adversely upon the livelihoods of the target group that can realistically be remedied legally
  • engage private law firms to provide pro bono legal support to NGOs engaging in public interest law, and
  • partner with the Programme for Land and Agrarian Studies to develop an advocacy strategy with regard to these issues.

One of the organisations supported in The Atlantic Philanthropies programme is the non-profit clearing house ProBono.Org, the first public interest law clearing house in South Africa. ProBono.Org aims to increase access to justice via the pro bono services of law firms and advocates, with an emphasis on public interest matters. ProBono.Org has to look to the United