Low bono: At a reduced fee or discounted rate. Formed in rhyming imitation of pro bono [publico], which means “performed at no charge for the public good.” Both pro bono and low bono were originally used by law firms and have spread to other professions.
The OED’s earliest citation for pro bono is in a 1774 letter. The term originally meant “reliable” or “trustworthy” and evolved into its current meaning of “free”; it’s considered chiefly a US legal usage. The American Bar Association says that lawyers “should aspire to render at least (50) hours of pro bono publico legal services per year.” The ABA has no comparable advice about low-bono work.
The origins of “low bono” are harder to pin down. The term appears to have first appeared in the 1990s. Luz Herrera, a law professor and pioneer in low-bono legal work, explained “low bono” in “Rethinking Private Attorney Involvement through a Low Bono Lens,” published in the September 2009 issue of the Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review:
“Low bono” is the most popular term used to describe discounted-rate arrangements between attorneys and clients, particularly those clients who are underrepresented. … Although “low bono” work is not new, it has gained more recognition in the last ten to fifteen years due in large part to law school initiatives primarily led by the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law and the University of Maryland School of Law.
Those law schools, and a number of others, are members of the Law School Consortium Project, a national nonprofit organization found on the Web at lowbono.org.
Additionally, I've been pleased to consult with non-profit organizations on a lo-bono basis.
That’s “lo” as in “lo-cal” or “lo-fat.”