“Pro bono” is a familiar phrase in North American jurisdictions that generally refers to a lawyer’s provision of free legal services to indigent persons. The phrase “pro bono” has also come to imply a particular approach to a lawyer’s relationship to indigent persons, one that stresses the obligatory as opposed to the charitable nature of the services provided. To what extent has this phrase, and its conceptualisation of a lawyer’s role, been used in Asian jurisdictions? This article examines how one Asian jurisdiction, Singapore, conceptualises a lawyer’s relationship to indigent persons by examining newspaper usage of phrases describing legal services for indigent persons. The article argues that changes in usage over time, from free legal services and legal aid to inclusion of pro bono, coupled with increased discussions of access to justice, represent a shift to a more obligatory concept of indigent legal services. An obligatory conceptualisation potentially exerts greater pressure on lawyers to provide indigent legal services, but can also exert pressure to revise the historical lack of broad-based government funded criminal legal aid in Singapore.