National Pro Bono Week is an annual week to recognise the contribution lawyers make, free-of-charge, to many people and organisations in need of legal advice who otherwise would not be able to afford it.
It supports and promotes the pro bono legal advice carried out by solicitors, barristers and chartered legal executives throughout the year and provides thought leadership on pro bono topics through a series of events run across England and Wales throughout the week. It is currently in it sixteenth year.
Each year the legal profession and the pro bono third sector comes together to reflect on the pro bono advice they are carrying out to improve access to justice. Over the years we have seen an increasing need for pro bono services and witnessed the unprecedented response of lawyers to meet this demand.
National Pro Bono Week can be an effective strategic tool for enhancing and expanding local efforts to increase access to justice for all. The legal profession across the country has used the week to increase pro bono participation and expand legal services to lower income individuals and groups. Although national in breadth, the week provides an opportunity for the legal profession and third sector to come together and review, appraise and support local pro bono efforts. A guiding principle of the NPBW Committee is to support these local efforts.
1. Recruiting more pro bono volunteers and increasing legal services to individuals, charities and community groups who cannot afford to pay for them.
2. Improving community understanding and support for pro bono.
3. Fostering collaborative relationships.
4. Recognising the pro bono efforts of English and Welsh lawyers.
National Pro Bono Week is organised by a committee which is made up of interested parties from the legal profession and the third sector. Committee members are drawn from the members of the Attorney General's Domestic Pro Bono Committee. The current committee includes representatives from the Law Society, the Bar Council, the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx), the judiciary, LawWorks, the Bar Pro Bono Unit, the Public Interest Lawyer's Network (PILnet) and the Access to Justice Foundation.
The Week is sponsored by the Law Society, The Bar Council, and CILEx.
Last year, the 15th National Pro Bono Week took place on 7 – 11 November 2016. Sponsored by the Law Society, Bar Council and CILEx, the week celebrated the breadth and impact of pro bono work undertaken by the legal profession across the year, and encouraged further involvement and development.
Almost twenty events were held nationally on a wide range of topics, bringing together hundreds of professionals from across the sector to engage with hot topics in pro bono. The official launch event at BPP University was attended by the Chairman of the Bar, Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC and earlier in the day the Attorney General, the Right Honourable Jeremy Wright QC MP, attended the launch of the Law Society's new Pro Bono Charter and Manual.
During the week hundreds of volunteer opportunities with a range of charities including Notre Dame Refugee Centre, Coram Children's Legal Centre, and Age UK were promoted on a portal on the National Pro Bono Centre website, drawing thousands of visitors to the site. The week was a great success and received excellent feedback from participating charities such as Toynbee Hall, Tax Aid, and Advice4Renters.