Posted by Peter Farr, a trustee of the CILEx Pro Bono Trust. The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives is a Legal Futures Associate
Today marks the start of the 16th National Pro Bono Week (NPBW), and as well as providing an opportunity to reflect on the major (and increasing) role that pro bono services play in access to justice, the event is intended to encourage other lawyers to become involved.
CILEx members and students, along with the rest of the profession, have legal knowledge and skills that are greatly in demand: an Ipsos MORI poll for the Legal Services Board and the Law Society, in 2016, found that less than one-third of people with a legal issue can access advice and assistance.
The scale of the problem means that many lawyers think there is nothing meaningful they can do at an individual level. However, the reality is that the maxim ‘every little helps’ is very true of pro bono services and certainly, in terms of the impact on the lives of those being helped, goes a very long way.
Pro bono services are immensely rewarding and enriching: they provide opportunities to explore new areas of law; put something back into the local community; and help the most vulnerable members of society.
During NPBW, a wide range of events are planned, and highlights include the following:
- Launch event: The broadcaster and commentator Joshua Rozenberg will be joined by a panel of experts to discuss the contribution pro bono legal services can and should make in society.
- The Great Legal Quiz: Fundraising event for front-line legal charities and opportunity for socialising. The organisers supply posters and questions, you supply the venue and teams (and refreshments).
- Birmingham Law Society event: Expert panel discusses the legal response to major emergency incidents such as terror attacks.
- Lecture event Influential US civil rights lawyer Edgar Cahn talks about a ‘co-production’ model for how lawyers and lay people can work together to improve social justice.
- LawWorks Student Pro Bono Conference: An event open to all law students. Speakers include former justice minister Lord Bach, Edgar Cahn and Law Society president Joe Egan. (For details see below).
In the foreword to Pro Bono: free legal advice in England & Wales 2017, the heads of the profession – CILEx president Millicent Grant, Mr Egan, and Andrew Langdon QC, chair of the Bar Council – write: “Solicitors, barristers and chartered legal executives provide their professional advice for free to those in need to an extent that is unparalleled by any other profession, ensuring that even the most disadvantaged in society can enforce their rights.
“Free advice and representation provided by volunteer lawyers is often the only means of obtaining access to justice for people who are unable to pay for legal advice and are not eligible for public funding (legal aid).
“Many charities and community groups that have very few resources also rely on lawyers who provide legal advice pro bono.
“It is important to state that pro bono legal services are not, nor can they ever be, a substitute for a properly funded system of legal aid.’
For details on all of this week’s events, click here.