Pro Bono Connect is a cross-profession programme, launched last year through the Bar Pro Bono Unit, to establish a network of commercial barristers and solicitors to work together on pro bono cases. Pro Bono Connect allows commercial sets and firms to work effectively together to address the demand from members of the public requiring free legal assistance whilst developing their private practises. We are looking for more chambers and firms to get involved so simply register your interest with Jamie Goldsmith at One Essex Court (Chambers of Lord AS Grabiner QC):  JGoldsmith@oeclaw.co.uk.

 

Here, Anna Boase of One Essex Court (Chambers of Lord AS Grabiner QC) shines light on her experience of volunteering through Pro Bono Connect.

 

In September 2015 I volunteered to give some advice through the Bar Pro Bono Unit. I met the client and saw that, as well as advice, he really needed representation at a four-day trial starting in mid-November. I offered to act, if a solicitor could be found. One of the pilot firms involved with Pro Bono Connect quickly agreed. 

 

Our client was former director of a “two man” company which had traded in the antiques business.  When the company went into liquidation the stock list did not match the physical stock remaining in the company’s possession. The liquidator brought misfeasance proceedings against the former director, claiming £500,000 from him personally as the value of the apparently “missing stock” on the assumption that he had disposed of it.  In fact, the mismatch was caused by flaws in the process of listing the stock, but this had never been properly articulated.

 

As a team the volunteer solicitors and I represented the client for about a month.  We served an amended Defence and a new witness statement, which set out his case more clearly than at any point in the three years in which he had been a litigant in person.   

 

The process of obtaining instructions, producing a proof of the client’s evidence and reviewing his documents was challenging; it was invaluable to have the help of a firm to get them in order. Within the firm, it was handled by relatively junior solicitors who I think benefitted from the experience of preparing for trial and having greater responsibility for carriage of the litigation than would normally be the case.

 

The newly strengthened defence and the threat of a pro bono costs order if successful changed the dynamics of the litigation completely. Shortly before trial, the claim was dropped without any payment by our client and without any order as to costs. Although this particular case did not involve direct advocacy experience, it was very satisfying to achieve such a great result for the client.