At what stage in your career did you take on your first pro bono case?

In the first six of my pupillage, in 1992. My first few cases were all pro-bono for the Free Representation Unit (FRU). I was very nervous, but my pupil supervisor encouraged me.

Why did you decide to undertake pro bono work?

To get experience of advocacy and to represent people who didn’t have representation.

What was the most memorable case you worked on, and what did you do?

Hall v Woolston Hall Leisure Ltd [2001] ICR 99 (CA). We helped to shape the law on discrimination and illegal contracts, by successfully arguing that a discrimination claim could not be struck out just because the contract of employment was tainted with illegality. I acted for Jill Hall, a chef, who had been dismissed because she was pregnant. Unfortunately, her employment contract was tainted by illegality because her employer had not been paying PAYE on her salary. Her sex discrimination claim was dismissed by the Employment Tribunal. I argued in the Employment Appeal Tribunal ([1998] ICR 651) that her sex discrimination claim was not impacted by any illegality affecting her contract of employment. The EAT rejected the argument, but gave permission to appeal. I then persuaded my pupil supervisor, Andrew Hochhauser QC, to get involved and together we did the Court of Appeal hearing and won. My instructing solicitors also acted pro bono.

What effect did pro bono work have on your career?

It was central to how I got started and began to build a practice. In 1993, I had completed pupillage, but did not get a tenancy. I was allowed to stay on in my chambers as a ‘squatter’, which was rent free, but with no work from chambers. So I occupied myself taking FRU cases in the employment tribunal, one after the other. Eventually this brought me to the attention of opposing solicitors, one or two of whom began to instruct me.

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

Knowing that whether you win or lose the case, your client had someone to stand up for them and argue their corner.

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

Just do it.