At what stage in your career did you take on your first pro bono case?

I volunteered in legal institutions, such as Lambeth Law Centre, from my third year of university onwards – predominantly helping the solicitors with admin and research. I started taking on my own cases during the BPTC year, through Citizens Advice Bureau and the Free Representation Unit. I then started pro bono work with Advocate the year after. 

Why did you decide to undertake pro bono work?

Prior to reading law I witnessed a handful of cases where individuals went through the legal system without the funds to instruct a lawyer and/or the ability to represent themselves. The level of anxiety and grief they experienced was staggering, and completely avoidable.

In 2018 I spent some time in the United States. Although I expected the situation to be dire in some states (what with the never ending miscarriage of justice series on Netflix); however, I never expected it to be as bad as it was. It prompted me to look at the situation at home and see if I could do more. When I returned from the States I ended up not taking on a new paid case for 18 months, focusing on pro bono work through Advocate, legal advice clinics and law firms.

What was the most memorable case you worked on, and what did you do?

Drafting myself out of my dad’s will (I should have invoiced him).

Otherwise, in a family case a client had been prevented from seeing her two children due to allegations of abuse. The client’s case was that she was not with the children at the time the assaults occurred. Prior to trial we discovered that the photographs of the bruising were taken weeks after the date alleged and when the client was abroad without the children. Although the case didn’t require a great deal of legal expertise, having a lawyer to assist eased a great deal of pressure on the client.  

What effect did pro bono work have on your career?

Each case gives me a renewed sense of motivation for my paid work – which is essential; I’m at the Criminal Bar.

What is the most rewarding thing about doing pro bono work?

Seeing the impact of my assistance. It’s an overused phrase, but pro bono work really does provide a real sense of purpose.

What advice would you give to any barrister unsure about whether to start doing pro bono work?

We often think about the duties we have to our clients, but forget about what the overarching purpose of a barrister is – to secure justice. When we maintain our focus on our duties, we narrow our view and risk only considering the client we act for. By extension, we risk becoming blind to the countless individuals who are without access to representation and therefore without the means to secure justice.

Scroll through the list of available cases. A great deal of them can be taken by barristers of any call. Many require around 3-4 hours of work. It can therefore take less than half a working day to potentially make a huge impact on someone’s life.