The week from 7-11 November saw the 15th National Pro Bono Week take place. NPBW is a nationwide campaign of events to celebrate the free legal services provided by the legal profession to those who would otherwise be unable to get the legal advice they need.
Nick Hanning (chairperson of the CILEx Pro Bono Trust) recaps some of the events during National Pro Bono Week (NPBW) to support, promote and commend pro bono legal work.
This year the emphasis for NPBW was volunteers: recruiting more volunteers; helping those already volunteering; and celebrating the amazing work they do.
As an early kick-off, the Law Society, Bar Council and CILEx created a short video introducing NPBW. Featuring the leaders of the three professions, including our own vice-president, Millicent Grant, the video explains the importance of pro bono work: not just to those who need help, but the value it brings to those who deliver it.
Monday evening saw possibly the most inspirational event of NPBW through the delivery of a series of short talks by students, lawyers and others about their own pro bono journeys. The talks were unique and personal to the speaker; they provided a refreshing change from many of the more formal speeches which take place.
For the lawyers, CILEx Council member and past CILEx Pro Bono Award winner, Patricia White, explained the importance of making time in her own practice to provide pro bono help. For the students, examples of practical work that added ‘real life’ to their studies and discernibly brought home to them how small pieces of work impact on people’s lives. For those looking for volunteering opportunities, the news that a ground-breaking service from the USA will soon be starting here. Kids in need of defense (KIND) provides legal advice to children caught up in the immigration system. Perhaps most intriguingly of all, for law firms: a passionate argument that doing pro bono provides ‘psychological sustenance’ to lawyers, and so – listen up Practice Managers(!) – improves their performance.
Pro Bono Connect
NPBW also saw the launch of a new service developed by the Bar Pro Bono Unit to link law firms with volunteer barristers. Pro Bono Connect aims to provide full casework support for those needing it in civil cases, and enab
les cross referrals between law firms and barristers. For firms keen to provide pro bono, but uncertain about developing their own scheme, this is an ideal way to offer as much or as little pro bono help they would like.
NPBW was an opportunity to highlight a new service on the National Pro Bono Centre website, which is dedicated to helping those interested find a suitable opportunity.
The site hosts a centralised record of current volunteering opportunities from all over the country. With so many different types of role listed, there really is something for everyone.
Law Society Pro Bono Charter and Pro Bono Manual
The opening event of NPBW combined high-level debate and real help in one fascinating session. The Attorney General, Jeremy Wright QC opened NPBW formally, while President of the Law Society, Robert Bourns, officially launched the Pro Bono Manual and the accompanying Charter.
The Charter provides a straightforward but comprehensive way for law firms to make a public commitment to pro bono work. Firms that sign up promise to develop a formal pro bono policy and to appoint a person or committee to be responsible for its pro bono work.
The Pro Bono Manual provides an essential and practical source of help and advice for organisations seeking to develop or expand their pro bono practices.
There was a very engaging series of questions and answers about pro bono and its future. The panel, comprising important bodies such as the Legal Education Foundation and LawWorks as well as leading law firms in the pro bono field, was constructive in advocating areas for enhancing pro bono provision, for example, through the use of technology.
Great Legal Quiz
Organised by the London Legal Support Trust, the Great Legal Quiz is a pub quiz run simultaneously across the country. This year more than 50 events were hosted, raising thousands of pounds for the advice sector.
Overview of NPBW 2016
NPBW served, once again, as a testament to the power of collaboration and cooperation. All branches of the profession, all levels of lawyer, student and teacher, and – holding us all together – advice services of all shapes and sizes come together every day to make life better for everyone.