Solicitors filling legal aid gap with pro bono work
13th Nov 2014
The number of lawyers working pro bono is on the rise as the profession attempts to keep justice accessible to all, despite government cuts to legal aid.
The Law Society has conducted research which shows that the value of pro bono work undertaken each year is now £601m, which equates to a considerable 2.8% of the annual turnover of all solicitors’ firms. This is a rise of 14% from 2013’s recorded £528m value.
Over 40% of all lawyers have carried out at least one hour of pro bono work in the last year, with an average of 52 hours each. The proportion of private practice solicitors working pro bono has remained at a steady level of about 50% since 2012, yet the proportion of those working in commerce and industry getting involved with pro bono work has dropped from 23% in 2013 to just 16% for 2014.
President of the Law Society, Andrew Caplen, stated that cuts to legal aid and wider funding are ‘chipping away at access to justice’, and that the latest figures are a sign of how committed solicitors and firms are to continuing to help those in need of legal advice.
He added that the ‘scale and scope of unpaid work’ carried out by lawyers is ‘humbling’, with a wide variety of work being done, ranging from small cases helping young families or asylum seekers, for example, to much larger clients such as charities with many contracts.
Chairman of the Bar Council, Nicholas Lavender QC, was much in agreement. ‘It is truly impressive’ he said of the barristers who invest time and effort into helping people unable to pay for legal representation. Lavender also made it clear though that pro bono work cannot become a substitute for ‘a properly funded legal aid system’, something many lawyers are echoing.