Without a system that allows people to assert their rights or defend themselves against the state, there is no rule of law. It only seems right that a society that values state services like free healthcare, applies a similar logic to publicly funded legal services – you do not have to use it, but it is there if you need to. Despite this, state provision of legal aid has been on a steady decline for several decades, with governments justifying these cuts by encouraging pro bono work to ‘fill the gap’ (Mcleay, 2008). This article examines the impact of cuts to legal aid, including the increase in unmet legal needs that has led to vulnerable sections of society falling through the justice safety net. What are the proposals to restore access to justice? Is the reliance on pro bono work to fill this gap justified? Do the limitations and advantages of pro bono models in some countries provide guidelines to assess what would be the best model to adopt? Does the decreasing government responsibility in the form of cuts to legal aid point towards an expectation of a culture of mandatory pro bono work?