In January 2024, we received 348 new applications for help, the highest in Advocate’s history. As the public need for pro bono help is soaring, our dedicated team are working their hardest to try to meet it. We can only do so with the Bar’s help, for which we are deeply thankful.

This time of year is critical for our survival. As the Bar’s pro bono charity, our #ProBono35 campaign encourages barristers to donate £35 when renewing their practising certificates through the MyBar portal. Last year, over 7,000 barristers generously supported us in this way, and the donations received represented 42% of our annual income. It is our lifeline. Without it, we simply could not get people the access to justice they deserve. People for whom there is no other help available.

Thanks to the brilliant generosity of the Bar, every day there is the potential to have a life-changing impact as we seek to connect people with a barrister volunteering pro bono.

As one applicant recently said when expressing their thanks to the barrister who stepped up to support their case: "Despite working a decent job, I still don't have enough funds to pay for the unexpected. Advocate gave me a lifeline which was unexpected. I appreciate all that you've done, and it's not been taken for granted."

I am privileged to work with a team who are passionate about pro bono and, as we continue to endure the cost of living crisis, there is no doubt that financial hardship is adding a new level of pressure on our service and worsening the mental health of those we strive to help. One only needs to look at recent statistics taken from reports such as the Money Advice Trust’s “Under Pressure” Report (2023) to see how rising costs have impacted people’s day to day lives.

  • More than one in five people have cut back on food and other essentials in order to keep up with energy bills (an estimated 11.6 million people).
  • 7 million people have sold personal possessions in an effort to stay on top of rising energy costs.

In these conditions, it is needless to say that legal costs are out of the question. Yet pro bono provides a glimmer of hope. We were set up in 1996 by Lord Goldsmith KC to “build on the existing strong and proud tradition of the Bar providing its services free to those who need help and advice”.

We appreciate that not everyone at the Bar will be able to donate, but, if you can, please consider donating your #ProBono35 when renewing your practising certificate; a small amount can go a long way.

- Rebecca Wilkie, CEO of Advocate

Read more about Advocate’s #ProBono35 initiative.