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The Pro Bono practice – the first pillar of Mattos Filho’s social ecosystem – seeks to impact society by defending and promoting human rights, strengthening civil society organizations and improving public policy. For over twenty years, Mattos Filho’s pioneering program of free legal services has harnessed its professionals’ expertise for the benefit of civil society, assisting organizations in this area with a focus on reducing social inequality.

“In our profession, there is nothing better than volunteering. The Brazilian Bar Association’s (OAB) statute also stresses the social nature of law,” said Roberto Quiroga, Mattos Filho’s managing partner. By the end of 2020, the firm had dedicated more than 120,000 hours to pro bono activities.

Within human rights, Mattos Filho places a specific focus on causes regarding ethnicity and race, women’s rights, refugees, immigrants and LGBTQIAP+ groups. Our firm understands that these causes suffer from a lack of proper access to justice, facing structural problems which require high-quality legal advice if they are to be transformed.

In light of Brazil having one of the world’s largest prison populations, Mattos Filho also defends inmates in custody hearings, free of charge. The firm also provides assistance in strategic litigation and legal services in important cases with repercussions both in Brazil and before international bodies.

Mattos Filho 100% Pro Bono partner Flavia Regina Oliveira explained the long-term objectives of the practice area. “We have a strategic plan to review our commitment every five years while encouraging all lawyers to take up pro bono services, so that we may amplify social transformation through the justice system. We want to be able to say that our efforts have made a difference twenty years from now, that more lawyers across the market are doing pro bono work, and that the existing stark inequalities in accessing justice have been reduced.”

An in-profile picture of Roberto Quiroga, seated and smiling. He is wearing a light blue shirt with a dark blue suit jacket. He is wearing a light blue shirt with a dark blue suit jacket.

In our profession, there is nothing better than volunteering. The Brazilian Bar Association’s statute also stresses the social nature of law, and so the firm took the innovative decision to have a group of professionals exclusively dedicated to working with social causes.”

Roberto QuirogaManaging Partner

As of December 2020, the 100% Pro Bono practice area has six lawyers exclusively dedicated to pro bono legal services, supported by a further four interns. The team also relies on the voluntary contributions of over 300 other partners and associates across the firm. “By creating the Mattos Filho 100% Pro Bono practice area, we have institutionalized our practice in law pertaining to public interest, leading the firm to stand out not only in Brazil but internationally as well,” said Bianca dos Santos Waks, a coordinator within the area.

2019 saw a marked consolidation and maturation of the activities conducted by Mattos Filho 100% Pro Bono. Among the area’s milestones was the signing of a cooperation agreement with the Public Defender’s Office of the State of São Paulo, at an event commemorating the twentieth anniversary of Mattos Filho’s pro bono service in October of that year.

This agreement allows for cases involving women in situations of violence, as well as those involving racial, sexual and gender discrimination to be referred to the firm for complete legal assistance, free of charge. A year on from the signing of the agreement, the practice area saw a 20% increase in volunteer hours dedicated to assisting individuals in these types of cases.

According to Bianca dos Santos Waks, “it is an unprecedented agreement, allowing for cooperation between a private firm and the principal institution for promotion and defense of human rights and access to justice in Brazil, while also highlighting Mattos Filho as a reference point in pro bono activity.”

The agreement with the Public Defender’s Office of the State of São Paulo also enables Mattos Filho to contribute to the research of strategic, collective and highly complex actions. These concern rights connected to questions of race and ethnicity, as well as those of women and LGBTQIAP+ groups.

“This relationship allows us to develop a shared understanding with a stronger focus on public policy, so that we may better overcome obstacles to accessing justice,” states Florisvaldo Fiorentino Júnior, public defender for the State of São Paulo.


The network of partnerships Mattos Filho has built over the last 21 years in relation to its pro bono activities reflects the consistency of the firm’s work in favor of legal services focused on public interest. It is comprised of over fifteen local and international civil society organizations, all renowned for their work with the causes assisted by Mattos Filho.

In 2019, this cooperation made it possible for 321 of Mattos Filho’s professionals to provide free legal assistance to a total of 98 non-profit organizations and 35 individuals, while in 2020 these figures jumped to 394 professionals assisting 99 organizations and 69 new individuals.

In addition to the firm’s direct work in these partnerships and its subsequent effect on people’s lives, Mattos Filho is in the process of developing legal theses that aim to effectively guarantee human rights via structural changes.

Learn more about some of the organizations that work in partnership with Mattos Filho 100% Pro Bono:

Production of legal knowledgein defense of human rights

Mattos Filho understands the importance of democratizing access to justice by making knowledge of the legal system freely available. Thus, the firm released its book Direitos humanos em evidência (‘Human Rights in Focus’) in 2019, while celebrating twenty years of pro bono work at Mattos Filho.

This publication compiled selected research studies and memorandums regarding human rights in Brazil. Its material – produced during the prior two decades of Mattos Filho’s pro bono work – seeks to assist organizations collaborating with the firm in disseminating information in the public’s interest, along with facilitating the ability for vulnerable groups to exercise their rights.

The book was in development for over a year, involving ten of the firm’s associates and partners Roberto Quiroga and Flavia Regina Oliveira.

“Based on different methodologies that were developed to meet the needs of each of our partnering organizations, we selected material that provides an overview of housing rights, sexual and reproductive rights, the right to a full and fair trial, and the rights of those deprived of their liberty, among other themes,” Quiroga elaborated.

The book’s content was developed in collaboration with five other organizations, four of which are international: The Brazilian Institute of Bioethics, Human Rights and Gender (ANIS); the Center for Reproductive Rights; the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice; TrustLaw – Thomson Reuters Foundation; and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH).

According to Bianca dos Santos Waks, “the idea of this book is to highlight the contribution we can make to civil society organizations that operate in the defense of human rights on a daily basis, via the production of knowledge.”

Mattos Filho’s 100% Pro Bono practice area also works together with affinity groups, in line with the firm’s policies on diversity and inclusion. One project involved producing a booklet regarding the right of transgender people to legally change their names – irrespective of any surgery or the presence of a lawyer – which has been possible in Brazil since 2018.

Developed in 2019 in collaboration with Mfriendly, one of the firm’s affinity groups focused on defending and promoting LGBTQIAP+ rights, the booklet was then distributed by the firm at São Paulo’s Trans Pride March, held in June of that year at one of the city’s main thoroughfares, Avenida Paulista.

During the event, volunteers from Mattos Filho were present to provide the public with legal advice in relation to this right. “With names being the main source of a person’s identity, we play a fundamental role in assisting the trans population to integrate with dignity into wider society,” noted Frederico Bastos Pinheiro Martins, one of the firm’s volunteering associates.


By valuing and promoting pro bono legal services, Mattos Filho gives its professionals the opportunity to harness their careers for the benefit of society. As well as contributing to a fairer, more egalitarian and democratic society, pro bono work challenges the firm’s professionals to improve their own professional qualities by placing them in situations that are less routine.

The 100% Pro Bono practice area takes on new cases in line with a specific process. Firstly, a five-person committee (made up of the firm’s partners) assesses each case with the practice area itself. Factors such as the relevance of the case, whether the individual or organization meets the criteria for free legal assistance and any potential conflicts of interest with other Mattos Filho cases are all taken into account.

Cases are then presented to the firm’s professionals, who can signal their interest in working with a given cause. To ensure high standards of performance are maintained, the hours dedicated to pro bono cases are accounted for in the same way as regular hours.

Pioneering pro bono practice in Brazil

Ever since its foundation, Mattos Filho has been committed to the expansion of access to justice in Brazil, as well as the promotion and defense of human rights.

After a mere seven years’ operation in the Brazilian legal market, Mattos Filho established a pioneering program of pro bono legal services in 1999.

Throughout its history, the firm has maintained its direct links to the evolution of pro bono practice in Brazil, working together with the Brazilian Bar Association (OAB) to see it regulated. In 2015, pro bono was formally recognized in the OAB’s Code of Ethics and Discipline, which regulates Brazilian legal practice. This has allowed access to pro bono services to be expanded to socially and economically vulnerable individuals.

In 2018, the firm established its groundbreaking Mattos Filho 100% Pro Bono practice area, whose professionals are exclusively dedicated to defending non-profit organizations and people who cannot afford regular legal services. “Our commitment is to expand our pro bono legal services in line with the firm’s overall growth. In other words, as Mattos Filho grows, so does its pro bono service,” Flavia Regina Oliveira commented.

See a timeline of Mattos Filho’s pro bono activities in Brazil below – together with the main recognition it has received – by navigating with the arrows or clicking and dragging with the mouse:


Key Events Key Events
Partnerships Partnerships
Acknowledgements Acknowledgements
+ 120,000
hours dedicated to pro bono practice (as of December 2020)
1% - 3%
of hours worked at Mattos Filho must be dedicated to pro bono practice by 2023
hours dedicated to pro bono practice – 15% increase on 2018
professionals working with pro bono causes – 37% increase on 2018
pro bono clients
horas dedicated to pro bono practice – 90% increase on 2019
professionals working with pro bono causes – 23% increase on 2019
pro bono clients