How do you encourage your barristers to take pro bono?

On the whole it’s not a difficult sell to many of our members of Chambers  As a chambers we passionately promote a diverse and inclusive profession that not only adds real value to family and public law but also contributes to the wider community. It is this strong ethos in chambers that leads us to undertake the high number of cases that we do through Advocate each year.

How do you think it benefits them?

The great value of undertaking pro bono cases can not be overstated and is well known. It benefits the more junior members to gain experience of work which they may otherwise be waiting years to have the opportunity to be instructed on. But increasingly at a more senior level when you have a member who wants to either refocus their practice or even tighten their focus further in a niche area, there are opportunities to be had. Now and then a case may jump out which is a little bit different from their day-to-day practice, which also can have some element of interest in it which can be just the tonic sometimes. As they say, a change is a good as a rest! Increasingly, the value of having a breadth of pro bono work on your CV for silk or any judicial appointment enriches those applications for future progression.

What benefit do you get from encouraging pro bono?

From both a Chambers and clerking perspective it is good for business. Being able to demonstrate your credentials as being good people to deal with, from a Corporate Social Responsibility perspective, is good for chambers. The Bar is a people business at the end of the day and people buy people! For clerking I’ve found it to be a great way of being introduced and become known by high-value solicitor targets in our areas of practice (who simple cold-calling wouldn’t have reached) when we’ve stepped up and taken on high profile cases. The wheels of justice turn that little bit more easily when all parties are represented and opposing solicitors in these cases recognise this help and do remember, I can promise you that on several occasions now!

Do your Chambers support barristers who want to do pro bono work?

The main support our members get is from each other. There is always someone who will make time in their busy workloads to help on pro bono cases. We have had several cases when a junior barrister first took the case then it escalated requiring another member to come on board and lead. Similarly, senior members on other cases can then require juniors as the case develops, all of which is fantastic experience for everyone involved.

Do you have a special system in place for allocating work?

Not as such, the regular emails from Advocate are distributed in Chambers. I’ll take a moment to cast an eye over the list of available work in case there is something of note, perhaps requiring a specific skill or expertise or something that I am on the lookout for as experience for one of my members based on my knowledge from practice development meetings. If there is something there of interest, I will check the diary of who has come to mind, just as you would if it was a paid gig, and speak to the barrister concerned to see if they are available and take it from there.

What advice would you give to other chambers' professionals who are sceptical about pro bono?

It is very simple, the emails from Advocate are a list of available cases for your barristers and treat it as just that, almost as if that email came from your best firm of solicitors. Ignore that it is pro bono. Read above and you will see that there is a huge value and occasional gold to be had on behalf of your members, your chambers and for your own career. Can you afford not to take the five minutes and not properly look at these lists of cases and miss that gold?