Pro bono services, from the Latin phrase ‘pro bono public’, meaning for the public good, is free legal services provided by lawyers (solicitors or barristers), legal executives, paralegals and law students to help those who cannot afford to pay for legal advice or representation in court. Those who seek pro bono legal services tend to be individuals, charities and community groups who are not eligible for public funding or alternative means of funding.
Pro bono work can involve projects such as ‘street law’, aimed at school children between eight and 16 years old. This project gives children an insight into the law, increasing their knowledge and raising their aspirations.
Although pro bono work is undertaken on a volunteer basis, there are basic standards all must follow. The Pro Bono Protocol was introduced to ensure consistency with legal professionals undertaking pro bono services. It aims to promote and support high standards of work.
Pro bono work allows lawyers to help those in the most need. Lawyers may undertake pro bono work because it allows them to interact with different types of people, keep up-to-date on an area of law they don’t regularly use in their current position or it may just be something they feel extremely passionate about.
The community benefits from pro bono services and events because they increase access to legal services and improve equality in the law. Individuals, charities and groups who are facing legal issues can find the situation overwhelming and isolating if they do not have access to information, support or representation. Pro bono services alleviate the pressure and help to guide these individuals and companies in the right direction, with tailored advice and representation.
Pro bono services provide valuable experience and CV enhancing opportunities for students. Students have the opportunity to put their legal knowledge to use and build on transferable skills (eg, teamwork, leadership skills, organisation, interpersonal skills, confidence, negotiation, advocacy and public speaking, to name a few). Students will be entering a legal industry which holds helping others as a fundamental value – there is no better time to start getting involved!
National Pro Bono Week is an annual event (Monday 29 October until Friday 2 November) which brings everyone together to celebrate all who provide pro bono work.
Justice Week is a new event, set up by the three legal professional bodies: the Law Society, the Bar Council and the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx). The week aims to build on the achievements of National Pro Bono Week and boost the profile of justice and the rule of law, helping to place them at the centre stage of public and political debate.
Events all across the UK take place to celebrate this week, including seminars, talks and activities which focus on pro bono work and initiatives. This year marks the 17th celebration!
The University of Winchester’ Law Society is hosting events all week for both Pro Bono and Justice Week (Monday 29 October until Friday 2 November). Further, the Mooting Society is collaborating with students to enter the Law School Challenge 2018/2019. The aim of the challenge is to raise funds to support the facilitation of free legal advice and to raise awareness of the services available. This will be achieved through creative and fun fundraising events.
Hopefully, this blog post will inspire you to get involved with the pro bono community and be a catalyst for change!