Pro bono week: a quarter of barristers undertook free legal work last year

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By Thomas Connelly on

Record high

The number of barristers undertaking pro bono work hit record highs last year, new stats reveal.

Never shared publicly before, the Bar Council figures show that one in every four barristers practising in England and Wales undertook pro bono work in 2018.

The legal charity Advocate (previously known as the Bar Pro Bono Unit) says the new numbers demonstrate the “growing commitment” of individual barristers to “fighting inequality” in the legal system. It goes on to acknowledge that whilst pro bono cannot substitute for a properly funded legal aid system, the figures highlight the important contribution made by volunteer lawyers.

Armed with its own stats, Advocate revealed its volunteer barristers clocked up over 10,000 hours of pro bono work in 2018. This equates to just shy of £2.25 million in uncharged fees.

Richard Atkins QC, chair of the bar said:

“I am delighted to acknowledge the valuable work done by many busy barristers, who give of their time freely to support those who would not otherwise be able to enforce their legal rights. Pro bono work is essential because of the limits of public funding. Those who do pro bono work provide a vital public service. I am very grateful to all involved.”

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The figures come at the start of National Pro Bono Week, a nationwide campaign to raise awareness of the important work done by legal professionals and the voluntary sector to help people gain access to justice.

Now in its 18th year, the key themes surrounding this week include:

• Highlighting how legal volunteering makes a difference to the public and can lead to changes in the law.

• Showcasing pro bono work and achievements of volunteer lawyers.

• Demonstrating the career value of pro bono through events which explore the benefits of pro bono in terms of collaboration and impact on practice development.

• Specific areas of development and best practice in pro bono schemes, such as cross-sector collaboration, new forms of pro bono practice, improving pro bono technical assistance and use of new legal technology.

The Pro Bono Week organising committee comprises representatives from pro bono charities, law firms and law schools, with contributions from across the sector including Bar Council, CILEx and The Law Society.

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