Pro bono work is at the heart of the legal profession and is an integral part of the working lives of many solicitors. This legal advice or representation, provided free of charge by legal professionals, represents an exceptionally important contribution to society, as it helps many vulnerable people, charities and communities, both in the UK and abroad, whose legal needs would otherwise be left unmet.
However, it must never be viewed as a substitute for a properly funded legal aid system and nobody should be complacent about the individuals who give up their time to carry out unpaid legal work.
The Law Society is a founding signatory to the Joint Pro Bono Protocol for Legal Work, which was developed to promote and support consistently high standards of pro bono work by the attorney general's Pro Bono Committee.
Definition of pro bono legal work
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. Pro bono legal work is always only an adjunct to, and not a substitute for, a proper system of publicly funded legal services.
Overview of the Law Society's objectives
- Improved public recognition of the significant social contribution made by the profession through pro bono work, communicated via campaigns, such as National Pro Bono Week and the Excellence Awards Pro Bono category.
- Develop the capacity and strategic presence of pro bono work across the sector, both domestically and internationally, to improve access to justice and meet unmet legal needs.
- Highlight and support the diversity of pro bono opportunities; from clinics offering social welfare advice to engaging with foreign governments. Pro bono work has the ability to be as diverse and far reaching as the law itself.
- Work with LawWorks, Citizens Advice Bureaux and the Law Centres Network to provide a coordinated response to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) and cuts to legal advice funding; and to strengthen existing pro bono networks.
- The long term objective is that all members of the profession will be aware of, and able to access, pro bono opportunities.