The Latin phrase pro bono publico means ‘for the public good’. In a legal context, it generally relates to the provision of free legal assistance for members of the public, charities and community groups who otherwise cannot afford to pay and are not eligible for alternative forms of funding. Pro bono is provided by LawWorks, the Bar Pro Bono Unit, the Free Representation Unit and the Personal Support Unit. Law centres and Citizens Advice tend to be the best place to start for information and advice.
Frances Ridout, Deputy Director of the Queen Mary Legal Advice Centre, tells Regulation Matters a little more about how pro bono can unite law students and lawyers with the common purpose of helping members of the public.
As well as benefitting consumers, pro bono has many personal and career benefits for a legal professional. It means a lawyer can give something back to the community; strengthen negotiation, advocacy, teamwork, leadership, networking and communication skills; and ‘showcase’ a particular area of specialist knowledge.
Since 2003, many UK law firms and law schools have celebrated an annual National Pro Bono Week. Sponsored by CILEx, the Law Society and Bar Council, it takes place from 6-11 November in 2017 and is made up of forums, panel events, webinars and volunteering/interactive sessions across local communities. Click here to find out more and get involved (#wedoprobono).
The UK’s National Pro Bono Centre was established in 2010 with the aim of bringing together charities, including the CILEx Pro Bono Trust, dedicated to the provision of pro bono legal services and access to justice. CILEx members can get involved in pro bono work even if their firm does not have a pro bono programme.
Each year, the Trust presents a CILEx Pro Bono Award to recognise the dedication and commitment of an outstanding individual who, in addition to their daily work, has provided free work of a legal nature. The winner of the 2016 medal was Chartered Legal Executive Christine Howard of Weil Gotshal & Manges.
For those looking for pro bono legal assistance, CILEx has put together a handy list of pro bono charities where you may be able to find help.