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Low bono programs, under which attorneys receive below-market-rate compensation to represent indigent clients, are used in many jurisdictions; yet systematic study of lawyers in legal aid practice is still rare in the U.S. and elsewhere. Using a unique, comprehensive data set on all legal aid lawyers in Taiwan (nearly 4,000), two nationwide attorney surveys, and 143 in-depth interviews with practicing lawyers across the country, we offer the first comprehensive empirical analysis of legal aid lawyers and explain that the design of a legal aid system attracts lawyers of a different caliber into the endeavor. Our theory is that lawyers pursue reputation and money. While low bono programs provide monetary rewards but tarnish lawyers’ professional images, attracting struggling solo practitioners and small law firms, well-off lawyers develop pro bono programs of their own to retain reputation, particularly those in large corporate firms.
Keywords Pro bono, low bono, legal profession, legal aid attorneys, access to justice