You are here:
  1. Home
  2. News
  3. Blog
  4. Pro bono – good for the community, good for lawyers too

Pro bono – good for the community, good for lawyers too

22 October 2018

What is pro bono work? It is free legal advice or help provided by lawyers to the public. Lawyers have always done pro bono work. 


Now pro bono plays a more important role than ever before, due to the very significant and well-documented cuts to legal aid following the 2012 Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO).

Pro bono work can vary widely, and help all kinds of clients. One of my most memorable pro bono experiences was being able to help a homeless man to secure accommodation. The client simply would not have been able to afford a lawyer if a fee had been charged. Of course, this is really typical of pro bono work: it often involves helping clients in life changing ways with issues which they otherwise would not be able to seek advice on.

Pro bono work doesn't just benefit the client. There are also benefits for the lawyers who choose to give up their time for this purpose, and the law firms who employ them. 

Why do pro bono

For individual lawyers

To build on existing legal skills

  • Junior lawyers in particular can find themselves doing pro bono work with more client contact or responsibility than they are used to

To increase organisational and management skills

  • Firms often task their trainees to get involved with organising the firm's pro bono activity – scheduling, liaising with other organisations etc. Again, this is a way to improve skills early on in your career which you may not otherwise have the opportunity to practice

Volunteering is good for your mental health! It has been shown to decrease risk of depression, increase confidence, and give a sense of meaning and wellbeing.  

For firms

  • Volunteering promotes positivity amongst employees and can increase job satisfaction and retention rates. People generally feel proud to work in a firm which takes this kind of community work seriously
  • A strong pro bono offering is something that prospective trainees ask about and consider to be important
  • Involvement in pro bono work gives a strong message about a firm's values - to staff, clients, and others. It can enhance the way in which the firm is seen in the community.
  • Involvement in student pro bono projects means access to bright, keen, passionate prospective lawyers.

The Law Society says:

 "There is no question that a robust pro bono programme is a sign of a law firm's strength. It reflects the commitment of the firm to its employees, its community, the rule of law, and it justifiably burnishes the institution's reputation for hard work and creativity."

For the community

The benefits for the community are obvious. Lawyers are trained to understand how to navigate the law and resolve legal problems. It is easy to forget how difficult it can be for those without any legal training to find the answer to a legal problem. Many people cannot afford to pay for advice, and so free legal help provided on a pro bono basis can be invaluable.

How do I get involved?

There are different options for lawyers who want to do pro bono work. Many law firms offer pro bono opportunities to their lawyers, and may even have a dedicated pro bono lawyer who co-ordinates this. But if your firm doesn't have anything like this, opportunities still exist.

It may be useful to start by considering how you would like to make a difference: helping people in your local community obtain access to justice? Helping US death row prisoners? Helping local start-ups or charities? 

  • There are likely to be opportunities to volunteer locally: Local law centres often require volunteers; Many University Law Schools have legal advice clinics and other pro bono projects which require solicitor involvement and supervision. LawWorks is a charity which can help to match you up with volunteering opportunities.
  • The Free Representation Unit (FRU) offers opportunities for volunteers (law students and solicitors) to support clients in employment and social security tribunals.
  • There are many other national and international projects whose details can be found online.

Practical steps for law firms

Although solicitors can volunteer individually, many firms coordinate pro bono opportunities for their staff. This is a positive thing: junior lawyers are far more likely to get involved if they realise that their pro bono activity is valued by their employer. Firms can promote pro bono activity by:

  • Appointing a pro bono champion, who is a partner or senior lawyer. A strong message "from the top" that this is a worthwhile thing to do will lead to greater involvement by employees.
  • Setting up a time recording code for pro bono work. It will encourage employees to think of pro bono work as valuable work, despite being non-chargeable. 
  • Finding out what kind of pro bono work employees would like to get involved in - and supporting employees by seeking out opportunities.
  • Encouraging employees to get involved if they are interested.

Most importantly - if you are interested, get involved! A lot of lawyers doing a little pro bono work adds up over time to make a big difference.


 Views expressed in our blogs are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Law Society.

Find out more about Justice Week, a new initiative organised by us, the Bar Council and CILEx, running Monday 29 October to Friday 2 November

Look at the combined event calendar for pro bono events for 22 to 27 October 2018 for Global Pro Bono Week, and Justice Week

View our photography exhibition: Justice in focus, which shows the importance of access to the justice system for those with difficult legal issues. It highlights some of the ways access to justice solves the problems many of us encounter in our lives. The exhibition will be in our main foyer during Justice Week

Explore our pro bono and international projects

Sign up to our Pro Bono Charter. It is a Statement of Commitment that firms, ABS and in-house teams are invited to sign up to. It is a great opportunity to highlight your law firm or organisation's pro bono work

LawWorks is a charity which can help to match you up with volunteering opportunities

Tags: access to justice | pro bono | rule of law

About the author

Laura Bee manages the Legal Advice Clinic and other pro bono projects at the University of Leicester Law School. She also works in legal practice at Mills & Reeve LLP.

Follow Laura on Twitter


  • Share this page:

Abigail Bright | Adam Johnson | Adele Edwin-Lamerton | Ahmed Aydeed | Alan East | Alex Barr | Alex Heshmaty | Alexa Lemzy | Alexandra Cardenas | Amanda Adeola | Amanda Carpenter | Amanda Jardine Viner | Amy Bell | Amy Heading | an anonymous sole practitioner | Andrew Kidd | Andrew McWhir | Andy Harris | Anna Drozd | Annaliese Fiehn | Anne Morris | Anne Waldron | anonymous female solicitor | Asif Afridi and Roseanne Russell | Bansi Desai | Barbara Whitehorne | Barry Wilkinson | Becky Baker | Ben Hollom | Bhavisha Mistry | Bob Nightingale | Bridget Garrood | Caroline Marlow | Caroline Roddis | Caroline Sorbier | Carolyn Pepper | Catherine Dixon | Chris Claxton-Shirley | Christina Blacklaws | Ciaran Fenton | Coral Hill | CV Library | Daniel Matchett | Daphne Perry | David Gilroy | David Yeoward | Douglas McPherson | Duncan Wood | Elijah Granet | Elizabeth Rimmer | Eloise Skinner | Emily Miller | Emily Powell | Emma Maule | Floyd Porter | Gary Richards | Gary Rycroft | Graham Murphy | Greg Treverton-Jones | Gustavo Bussmann | Hayley Stewart | Hilda-Georgina Kwafo-Akoto | Ignasi Guardans | James Castro Edwards | Jane Cassell | Jayne Willetts | Jeremy Miles | Jerry Garvey | Jessie Barwick | Joe Egan | Jonathan Andrews | Jonathan Fisher | Jonathan Smithers | Jonathon Bray | Julian Hall | Julie Ashdown | Julie Nicholds | June Venters | Justin Rourke | Karen Jackson | Kate Adam | Katherine Cousins | Kaweh Beheshtizadeh | Kayleigh Leonie | Keiley Ann Broadhead | Kerrie Fuller | Kevin Hood | Kevin Poulter | Larry Cattle | Laura Bee | Laura Devine | Laura Uberoi | Law Gazette Jobs | Leah Glover and Julie Ashdown | Leanne Yendell | Lee Moore | LHS Solicitors | Linden Thomas | Lucy Parker | Maria Shahid | Marjorie Creek | Mark Carver | Mark Leiser | Markus Coleman | Martin Barnes | Mary Doyle | Matt O'Brien | Matt Oliver | Matthew Still | Max Rossiter | Melinda Giles | Melissa Hardee | Michael Henson-Webb | Neil Ford | Nick Denys | Nick O'Neill | Nick Podd | Nigel West | Nikki Alderson | Oz Alashe | Paris Theodorou | Patrick Wolfe | Paul Bennett | Paul Rogerson | Paul Wilson | Pearl Moses | Penny Owston | Peter Wright | Philippa Southwell | Preetha Gopalan | Prof Sylvie Delacroix | Rachel Brushfield | Rafie Faruq | Ranjit Uppal | Ravi Naik | Rebecca Atkinson | Remy Mohamed | Richard Collier | Richard Coulthard | Richard Heinrich | Richard Mabey | Richard Messingham | Richard Miller | Richard Roberts | Rita Gupta | Rob Cope | Robert Bourns | Robert Forman | Robin Charrot | Rosa Coleman | Rosy Rourke | Sachin Nair | Saida Bello | Sally Azarmi | Sally Woolston | Sam De Silva | Sara Chandler | Sarah Austin | Sarah Crowe | Sarah Henchoz | Sarah Smith | Shereen Semnani | Shirin Marker | Siddique Patel | Simon Day | Sofia Olhede | Sonia Aman | Sophia Adams Bhatti | Sophie O'Neill-Hanson | Steve Deutsch | Steve Thompson | Stuart Poole-Robb | Sue James | Susa | Susan Acland-Hood | Susan Kench | Suzanne Gallagher | The Law Society Digital and Brand team | Tom Chapman | Tom Ellen | Tony Roe | Tracey Calvert | Umar Kankiya | Vanessa Friend | Vicki Butler | Vidisha Joshi | William Li | William McSweeney | Zoë Paton-Crockett