Pro Bono opportunities

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What is pro bono and how to get started

Many just lawyers in action will want to do pro bono work. This article explains pro bono, and some of the legal sector organisations that can help you. It refers you to help on how in-house lawyers can team with law firms to meet the insurance requirements of professional practice.

Pro bono is shortened from the Latin term “pro bono publico”, meaning “for the public good.” According to the National Pro Bono Centre: “In the legal context it generally means the provision of legal services on a free basis 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.”

A Pro Bono Protocol has been developed under the auspices of the Attorney General’s Pro Bono Coordinating Committee. It has been endorsed by the Law Society of England and Wales, Bar Council of England and Wales and Chartered Institute of Legal Executives.

The Law Society is also a great source of information on pro bono.

There are some great organisations working in this area, including:

  • LawWorks, the Solicitors Pro Bono unit
  • Bar Pro Bono Unit, for Barristers
  • The London Legal Support Trust, and regional equivalents
  • The Access to Justice Foundation
  • CILEx Pro Bono Trust
  • Pro Bono Community
  • Legal Action Group
  • The Litigant in Person Support Strategy
  • Just Fair

And, for international issues:

  • Advocates for International Development
  • Trust Law
  • International Senior Lawyers Project

We will be adding more pro bono case studies to the site in the future, but in the meantime, here are some tips to keep in mind when setting up a project from scratch.

As in-house lawyers, there are certain challenges or limitations to the ability to do pro bono (covered in more detail in this article by the Law Society). However, don’t let that put you off. There are a number of ways you can still get involved:

  • Often in-house teams will partner up with a private practice firm and/or a university law school to deliver the pro bono advice.
  • The other option is to work with a pro bono charity, such as the ones listed above, as they will be experienced in overcoming these challenges, eg by working with a legal advice clinic.
  • You can also set up schemes within the legal field. However, do not engage in giving legal advice such as mentoring, work experience or twinning with international legal teams elsewhere.

If you are still wondering whether to launch a pro bono initiative within your team, here is a video about the scheme set up in Sheffield University to inspire you to think creatively about the possibilities.

Opportunity: The Manna Society

Our October 2017 hackday drafting the website content was kindly hosted by the law firm Gowlings. Just ten minutes’ walk away, nestled beneath the Shard, is the Manna Society Day Centre.

Over 4,000 people are sleeping homeless in England, of which 940 live in London. Many have mental health problems and find it increasingly difficult to find accommodation because of financial cuts.

The Day Centre is open 7 days a week from 8.30am to 1.30pm. Every day they assist 150 homeless people and offer food, showers, education, health care and accommodation. They have a dedicated team to support and find suitable accommodation for homeless people. However, this is also increasingly difficult for the layperson, and lawyers are urgently needed to help with problems arising out of tenancy agreements, as well as other legal advice such as immigration and asylum claims.

The Manna Society assists these vulnerable people and you, as in-house lawyers, can assist the Manna Society and their clients with your legal skills and knowledge. In particular, the Manna Society have asked for help with advice relating to tenancies and property law.

The Manna Society has many more ideas for how you can help them help homeless people and raise awareness of the issues.

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