On 14th March, Advocate was delighted to host a lecture given by our new Joint President (and former Chairman), Sir Robin Knowles CBE at Lincoln’s Inn.

The evening began with an opening speech by Advocate’s Chairman, Sharif A. Shivji KC, who congratulated Sir Robin on his new role as incoming Joint President of Advocate alongside Lord Goldsmith KC.

lecture news piece

After several decades working in the system of justice, Sir Robin provided his insight into some of the unique challenges now facing the justice system. The lecture - titled “Justice, and access to it” addressed how not just the pro bono and advice sector, but the government, the Bar and other legal professionals can work better together to ensure that more people have fair and equal access to the justice system under increasingly stretched circumstances.

Sir Robin began the lecture by sharing about how the public’s relationship with the justice system has changed since the reduction of legal aid, recounting how too often he has heard people say: “The justice system, it’s not for people like me”.

He went on to highlight the remarkable pro bono contribution made by barristers, solicitors, paralegals and others in the legal sector. Be it though giving their time, making a donation or in many cases both, Sir Robin reflected:

"The profession deserves utter respect for the commitment that is behind this pro bono contribution. It demonstrates a legal profession worthy of the name, and one with compassionWe can now talk of pro bono as part of being a lawyer. It is worth letting that important phrase sink in for a moment”.

Sir Robin asserted that a concerted effort is now needed to address shortfalls in access to the justice system. Acknowledging that there is “not a single answer or a single plan”, he spoke on how “sustaining public trust through building public understanding of the system of justice is the starting, foundational point”.

He noted the necessity of integration: “Integration to the point where access is part of the system of justice. Not “here is the system of justice, what about access to it” but “here is the system of justice and access to it is part of it”.

Sir Robin spoke on how that integration would give a better opportunity to bring in other resources. He discussed a number of current examples here, including “third-party litigation funders; those looking to make a commercial return by funding legal advice and representation”.

He acknowledged that help from new strategic avenues will be needed here, such as data gathering: “Everyone is stretched, but good data gathering, and analysis is one of those things that repays more than the time it takes. It informs strategy; it helps avoid wrong turns; it persuades”.

This is in addition to assistance from non-traditional expertise: “Those whose profession is technology and AI of course, but also delivery and logistics, behaviour and health, rather than the law. We need their ideas not just ours”.

Sir Robin also noted the need for the help of the press in raising public understanding of the system of justice, before closing the lecture by highlighting the need for leadership, but not just leadership from the government alone: “It is the leadership of many that helped create a world class system of justice and it can help ensure access is an integrated part of it”.

Our many thanks goes to Sir Robin for giving such an insightful and inspiring lecture. We look forward to engaging with further discussions sparked by this.

Read a full copy of Sir Robin’s lecture here.

Find out more about working with Advocate.