Opinions and Legal Insights

What have lawyers ever done for us Part 2 – Pro Bono!

I wrote the other day about the important work done by lawyers much of which is overlooked in the face of hostile media coverage and political rhetoric.
In that post I mentioned those lawyers who go the extra mile for clients, who act as a friend and support. This is work for which they rarely receive any payment or public acknowledgement.  
So, let’s look at this in more detail.
My earlier post shared a tweet from a family lawyer about domestic violence. In these cases, the solicitor is often the first person to hear the victim’s story. One firm in Wales has developed a link with a local charity to offer free advice and help to victims –
This is just one example of many such schemes that are helped by unpaid lawyers.
Law Works is a charity which is dedicated to securing legal help for those who cannot get legal aid and do not have the funds to cover their own legal costs. Their aim is to connect volunteer lawyers with those is need –
Their work is underpinned by a network of lawyers and firms who are willing to work without charge to facilitate access to justice. The technical expression is pro bono! Their website explains –
“While pro bono is not, and should not become, an alternative to legal aid – it makes an important contribution to accessing legal information, advice and representation.”

Most major Solicitors’ firms have a commitment to pro bono work. One example, is major City firm, Allen and Overy whose website says that 52% of their lawyers took part in unpaid work in 2019 with 48,000 unpaid hours recorded.

At the other extreme are the Law Centres which survive (many don’t) on a shoestring to fight for justice for the most vulnerable.
Across the country it is estimated that 60% of lawyers do some unpaid work.
The Law Society, working with Law Works, is promoting an initiative to respond to the need for free advice arising because of the coronavirus outbreak
This is just scratching the surface of the huge amount of unpaid work that layers do. This covers anything from managing complex litigation to advising that an alternative to legal action might be best.
This need is not going to go anywhere whilst legal aid remains so limited. That need is largely met by the dedication of those lawyers, across the profession, who do this unpaid work.
This will be sorely missed if whole sectors of the profession are forced to close.