How do you encourage your barristers to take pro bono?

Beyond the obvious social factors associated with taking these cases, I tend to give them examples of the range of experience gained by others when taking on pro bono cases.

Also, if they have expressed an interest in doing a particular area of work in which they have no practical experience, pro bono offers them that experience. This can be cited to potential clients to demonstrate real practical experience in a target area of work.

How do you think it benefits them?

Not only does it allow them to gain experience of client/witness handling (and this is real client handling, typically without the support of a solicitor) but it also allows them to explore many different areas of law they may otherwise struggle to access, particularly if their Chambers does not typically receive that type of work.

Beyond this, there is a fantastic opportunity for barristers to gain experience of appellate work and thereby references from higher court judges. We at Outer Temple have many a success story of our members using pro bono cases, along with references from the judge/opponent on those cases, in submissions for legal directories and applications for appointments on panels such as the Attorney General’s list, the EHRC list and even QC applications.

What benefit do you get from encouraging pro bono?

Never did I feel as if I was missing the title ‘Champion’ in my life, though on becoming Outer Temple Chambers’ ‘Pro Bono Champion’ I now can’t remind my colleagues of my status often enough!

On a more serious note, it gives me a real sense of satisfaction to see our team doing good in the community, and for us to be able to give really valuable support on important issues in people’s lives. It is always very humbling to see the warm feedback we so often get from grateful pro bono clients.

It has also been rewarding to build relationships with the new law firms we meet by working on pro bono cases, some of whom now send us paid work.

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

Not so much a ‘special’ system, though we follow the Bar Council’s policy and the requirements of the BSB Handbook on fair allocation of work. We allocate pro-bono work on this basis ensuring that each barrister, at all levels of call, receives ample opportunity to further their practice.

What advice would you give to other clerks or practice managers who are sceptical about pro bono?

That they really are missing a trick through their scepticism.

As I’ve explained above, there is every reason, both as a practice manager and a barrister, to get involved with pro bono work. As a practice manager, if you can make a difference for your members’ practices (getting on panels, getting in directories, winning a High Court Appeal etc) through this work then it will reflect well on you regardless of whether the matter is paid or unpaid. Indeed pro bono work is an investment in many senses, with paid work sometimes only coming in by virtue of having done that pro bono case.

It is always enormously personally rewarding to know we have helped people gain access to justice with high quality representation they might not otherwise have been able to afford. At the end of the day, that alone makes it more than worthwhile.