National Pro Bono Week

Pro bono ‘more important than ever’Fran Edwards

03 November 2014

The representative bodies of the legal profession are joining forces to celebrate a nationwide campaign highlighting the importance of free legal advice.

The 13th annual National Pro Bono Week (NPBW), sponsored by the Law Society, the Bar Council and the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx), is taking place between 3 – 7 November 2014.

It will celebrate the breadth and impact of pro bono work undertaken by the legal profession across the year. Pro bono work is where lawyers volunteer their professional skills to assist individuals and community groups who cannot afford to pay for legal help and who are unable to access legal aid or other forms of financial assistance.

The week will be launched by the Attorney General at a Question Time event hosted by the Law Society and will feature events about international and domestic pro bono work. CILEx president Frances Edwards (pictured) will also speak at the event on behalf of CILEx, the Law Society and the Bar Council.

This year will also see London host the annual European Pro Bono Forum run by PILnet – the Global Network for Public Interest Law. The Forum is the only platform of its kind providing an international comparative perspective on pro bono practice in Europe and will include keynote speeches from Lord Goldsmith (former Attorney General) and the Lord Mayor of the City of London, Fiona Woolf.

Frances Edwards, president of CILEx said: “We are proud to be sponsors of National Pro Bono Week. CILEx and the legal profession’s dedication to pro bono represents our long standing commitment to access to justice. Pro bono work also enables CILEx members to not only become better lawyers by expanding their legal skills and learning by experience, but enables them to help vulnerable members of society.”

Law Society president Andrew Caplen said: “Legal aid cuts and wider funding cuts are chipping away at access to justice. That is why access to justice is at the top of my agenda this year.

“The latest figures on pro bono work are a sign of how solicitors and firms are committed to helping those who need legal advice. The scale and scope of unpaid work carried out by our profession is humbling. From young families frightened of facing eviction and those seeking asylum from persecution, to large charities dealing with vast numbers of contracts, pro bono helps so many people, directly and indirectly.”

Chairman of the Bar Council Nicholas Lavender QC said: “It is truly impressive to see so many barristers giving so freely of their time and efforts to make a difference for people who are unable to speak for themselves or to pay for legal representation. It is the clearest possible demonstration of the profession’s commitment to justice and to access to justice.

“However, pro bono work cannot be a substitute for a properly funded legal aid system, with last year’s cuts denying legal representation to over a thousand people a week who would previously have received legal aid. Compelled to represent themselves in court, but unable to do so effectively, they face a serious risk of being unable to enforce their rights in cases which concern vital interests such as access to their children.”

Find out more about activities during the week here.