“My experience of being a Pro Bono Champion has opened my eyes to the number of opportunities available to carry out pro bono work and allowed me to assist and encourage others to find opportunities that suit them.”

Catherine Piercy, a commercial and insurance barrister from Gatehouse Chambers, talks us through why she decided to become a Pro Bono Champion and the importance of taking on pro bono work.

How did you first get involved with Advocate and pro bono work?

I offered to take on the role of Gatehouse’s Pro Bono Champion in August 2021 to better understand the opportunities to carry out pro bono work and to try and lead by example in terms of carrying out work, both for Advocate and other organisations.  Gatehouse has always been committed to carrying out pro bono work, but for those, such as me, who had not done as much as I should, it was a little daunting to work out where best to start.  So, I decided to jump in at the deep end.  So far, I have been able to help on cases where the applicant would not have had representation if it had not been for the help of Advocate and there has been a brilliant increase in both the number of members carrying out pro bono work and the amount of pro bono work chambers has carried out.

Why did you decide to become a Pro Bono Champion? 

I wanted to give myself a bit of pressure to do more pro bono work myself and thought taking on the role of Pro Bono Champion would mean I would feel more inclined to do so, and also would help me to persuade members who might not otherwise have done much pro bono work to follow suit.  I am delighted at the reaction so far.  I have been able to help members of chambers better understand the work Advocate does and the fact that time commitment can be readily understood from the outset.  This has led to more members signing up to carry out cases for Advocate, as well as carrying out more pro bono work generally. 

What is the most rewarding thing about doing pro bono work? 

It has been rewarding for me, not only to help those who would otherwise not have had representation, but to see other members of chambers enjoying being able to help people they would not have had the opportunity to work with, had they not taken on a case through Advocate or other pro bono schemes. 

What advice would you give to any barrister unsure about whether to start doing pro bono work? 

For anyone who is uncertain about what working for Advocate entails, I would encourage them to sign up for the case list, as this shows what sort of cases and people need help, and to get in touch with Advocate who have been excellent at supporting me and members of my chambers.  It is also useful to speak to barristers who work for Advocate, CLIPS, ELIPS or COLAS, because they can tell you exactly what is involved and give you confidence that you will genuinely be able to help someone who might otherwise be facing litigation on their own.