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

I can’t quite remember but I have always had those tendencies! Before coming to the Bar I worked in a not-for-profit organisation that provided free legal services in immigration, asylum and nationality work, regardless of your finances. When I qualified and was called to the Bar, I joined the Bail for Immigration Detainees rota of counsel, who represent those seeking immigration bail pro bono. My first official pro bono case must have been either as a pupil or shortly after qualifying post-pupillage. 

Why did you decide to undertake pro bono work? 

I mainly practise in immigration and asylum work so the very nature of the work more often than not involves vulnerable individuals and/or those of limited means. As a result of LASPO, the bulk of immigration work was taken out of scope and it is virtually only asylum and bail cases that remain (bar some exceptions). But even pre-LASPO, many firms had started to abandon their legal aid franchises as it was not financially viable and/or to administratively burdensome. Major NFP organisations like Immigration Advisory Service and Refugee Legal Centre also folded as a result of financial difficulties. The cases that we see day in day out are not only hugely deserving (merit-wise) but also contain such high stakes. In my view, in order to ensure access to justice to those most in need, it has become part and parcel of our job to do pro bono cases. And we’re not alone in this, many of my instructing solicitors do the same; experts often do with social worker, medical and/or country condition reports being done pro bono or for a substantially reduced fee. 

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

My most memorable case is representing as junior counsel eight British Army veterans from Fiji. They were Commonwealth recruits who were ill-advised at the time of their discharge from the Armed Forces, which impacted on their rights to reside and settle in the UK. This case would not have got off the ground if it was not for pro bono work from myself and my instructing solicitor. All eight veterans have complex circumstances, whether family, health (physical and/or mental health) or financial etc… and they would not have come this far without the support that we were able to give them as their lawyers. 

What effect did pro bono work have on your career? 

It keeps you going! And by that I mean, it keeps you grounded, with your two feet firmly on the ground. It is incredibly rewarding knowing that you were able to help a client because you agreed to take their case on pro bono and knowing that we tend to be in the minority. 

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

Knowing that perhaps, if it weren’t for my work, going the extra mile, the client I helped may have suffered a very different result or fate. 

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

Not to think twice. We can all make savings somewhere or find a way to build in a few hours or a day here and there every month or perhaps less frequently to dedicate our time and expertise to pro bono work. Every little bit helps and for those looking out for their next big career move or their first Supreme Court case, those sorts of cases often start as pro bono ones!