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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about pro bono

1. Where can I find pro bono opportunities?

There are many places to look for interesting and rewarding pro bono work. The best place to start is the National Pro Bono Centre.

2. What legal work qualifies as pro bono?

When we refer to pro bono legal work we mean legal advice or representation provided by lawyers in the public interest, including to individuals, charities and community groups who cannot afford to pay for that advice or representation and where public and alternative means of funding are not available.

Legal work is pro bono legal work only if it is free to the client, without payment to the lawyer or law firm (regardless of the outcome) and provided voluntarily either by the lawyer or his or her firm. Providing free legal assistance to friends or relatives who are not indigent is not pro bono.

Providing initial free legal advice to potential clients who would be able to pay, would not fall into the standard definition of pro bono.

3. How much time must I devote to pro bono activities?

Pro bono work is a purely voluntary endeavour. Your firm may have aspirational pro bono targets, however there is no regulatory pro bono requirement.

4. What about insurance?

Many pro bono charities and opportunity providers provide coverage for pro bono work. You should always check with the provider for more specific information about their coverage.

If you are working in a law firm, it is likely that your own insurance coverage can be extended to cover any pro bono activity. Once again, you should check with your provider for more specific details.

5. Does pro bono always mean taking on an entire case?

No. There is a broad range of pro bono activities that do not require direct, full representation or court appearances, such as one-off advice sessions in person, document preparation and legal research.

Many Citizens Advice Bureaus and Law Centres also run drop-in legal clinics which are staffed by pro bono lawyers - your only commitment is for the time spent at the clinic.

6. Do I have to report my pro bono hours?

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) does not require solicitors to report their pro bono hours, and only firms with established pro bono policies are likely to track the number of pro bono hours contributed by their firm members.

However, we encourage you (and your firm) to track your pro bono hours as it is an easy way to monitor your pro bono contribution to your community.

7. What pro bono work can a solicitor who is retired or taking a break from active practice do?

Retired solicitors or solicitors taking a career break from the law can participate in a wide range of pro bono activities, including mentoring, participation in a legal clinic or full representation. There are many pro bono opportunities which will not require a solicitor to hold a practising certificate or their own professional indemnity insurance (PII).

8. I don't feel that I am an expert, should I do pro bono work?

Yes. Studies have shown that represented litigants get better results than those who are forced to represent themselves. Many pro bono providers provide training and support to their pro bono solicitors, and with your legal training you are already more of an expert than your clients are likely to be. You can make a real difference in people's lives.

9. Can I get any recognition or credit for doing pro bono work?

Yes. The Law Society's Pro Bono Excellence Award annually recognises outstanding pro bono contributions.

Several other pro bono organisations, such as LawWorks and Trustlaw, also run their own annual pro bono awards.

Some firms will also take pro bono work into account at annual reviews and appraisals.

10. If I am unable to do pro bono work, can I make a financial contribution?

Absolutely! Please consider making a contribution directly to a pro bono organisation, or contribute to the Access to Justice Foundation, which distributes grants to organisations that support those who need legal help but cannot afford it.