Our history

In 1996, Advocate began with a part-time administrator working from a small room in Gray’s Inn. Now, we are the only pro bono charity to provide access to legal assistance in all areas of law, in all courts and tribunals across England and Wales.

Advocate was founded as the Bar Pro Bono Unit in 1996 by Peter Goldsmith QC. Starting with only 350 volunteer barristers, demand for help meant that the charity quickly grew in strength and number. In the first year we received 250 applications for legal help, a number that would increase to over 2,000 by 2019. Lord Goldsmith’s compassion in recognising the public need for free legal help to be available to those who could not afford it had started something that would become a lifeline for many.

In 2010, Advocate relocated to new premises on Chancery Lane to accommodate its growing size and ambitions. Now, it is part of the National Pro Bono Centre, a hub for pro bono charities across the legal sector. From 1996 to now, we have helped thousands of people achieve the access to justice they deserve. Over the years, we have established successful partnerships with charities and professional bodies across the sector to deliver free legal advice and advocacy where it is most needed.

Today, Advocate works with over 4,000 volunteer barristers. As we look towards the future, more of our processes are being taken online, making legal assistance more accessible than ever. Our rebrand in 2018 not only keeps pace with the profession’s increasing digitisation, but also reflects our desire to showcase what we do: we help to find free legal assistance from barristers. In our 24th year, this work is more important than ever.

“You kind of saved my life. I never said it before but you were amazing so thank you. 

This case was so important to show that people like me can win! I couldn’t have done it without your support”

– Advocate applicant