Uganda Law Society Holds 10th Annual Pro Bono Day

On 4th December 2020, the Uganda Law Society (ULS) held the 10th Annual pro bono day under the theme “Transformative potential of Pro-bono work: creating a climate of change”, at the Law Development Centre in Kampala.

The pro bono day, which was part of the pro bono week, is a time when professional lawyers provide legal aid to members of the public, in particular to the poor and most vulnerable. The lawyers provide such services voluntarily and without payment, and thereby offer their assistance in the sense of a public service to those who are otherwise unable to afford the services of skilled professionals.

While making the keynote address, Hon. Alfonse Owiny-Dollo, the Chief Justice of the Republic of Uganda, asked lawyers to render quality pro bono services to ensure access to justice for majority Ugandans.

“We must live up to what Jesus said. When you render pro bono services, don’t tamper with quality, do it with your soul and spirit,” he said.

He further urged lawyers to offer pro bono services not only during pro bono week, but make it a part of their life and offer the same services at their law firms, to address the gap of access to justice in Uganda.

Nicole Bjerler, the Head of the Democratic Governance Facility (DGF), referring to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and specifically to SDGs 10 and 16, emphasised that the promotion of the rule of law at national and international levels and ensuring equal access to justice for all is key. She expressed appreciation for the ULS and other legal aid service providers having come together to provide free legal services to those in need during pro bono week in different parts of the country.

“You, as pro bono lawyers, are directly contributing – in very practical ways – to this overarching global vision of leaving no one behind, and of ensuring equal access to justice for all,” she said, and further added that “Access to justice – especially for the poor, vulnerable, and marginalised – is critical for the enjoyment of fundamental human rights and freedoms. Without legal aid, those who cannot afford to hire private lawyers would largely be unable to claim individual and collective rights.”

Pheona Wall, the ULS President, said the time is now to provide free legal aid to especially victims of electoral violence. “ULS has pledged to support victims of electoral violence. We have also been engaging the Electoral Commission to ensure amicable elections, as the lives of Ugandans is a priority,” she noted.

According to the ULS, over 2000 advocates signed up to provide pro bono services to indigent Ugandans, and in 2019, close to 216 cases arising out of pro bono services were addressed.

The ULS, with the support of the DGF organised the Pro bono week in various regions of Uganda including Law Development Centre and Mengo Chief Magistrates Court in Kampala, and at the Regional High Court Grounds in Masaka, Mbarara, Kabale, Kabarole, Masindi, Arua, Gulu, Soroti and Jinja.

The DGF has supported the ULS pro bono scheme since its inception in 2009, complementing the already existing legal aid services through mobilising ULS membership to provide free legal services. This is part of the project ULS is currently implementing with DGF’s support aimed at enhancing access to justice for the indigent, vulnerable and marginalised persons and respect for human rights in Uganda.