About pro bono

Pro bono work is legal advice, drafting or representation provided for free by lawyers to individuals, charities or community groups who cannot afford to pay. Read on to find out more about pro bono and what we think contributes to lasting and successful pro bono work.

What is pro bono work?

It is legal advice, drafting or representation provided for free by lawyers to individuals, charities or community groups who cannot afford to pay. This is the definition of pro bono within the Joint Pro Bono Protocol for Legal Work.

The Pro Bono Protocol sets out the core values of pro bono legal work. If you are interested in doing pro bono work it is worth reading before you start. It explains standards that should be applied, other ways to use legal skills, how non-lawyers can contribute, how law students, pupil barristers and trainee solicitors can contribute, and pro bono brokerage.

The Protocol was developed in 2003 under the auspices of the Attorney General’s Pro Bono Committee and has been endorsed by the Law Society of England and Wales, the Bar Council of England and Wales and the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives.

Others follow the TrustLaw definition of pro bono which is slightly broader: “The provision of free legal advice, assistance, representation and research by a qualified lawyer for persons of limited means or organisations that have a social, environmental, humanitarian, cultural or community focus.”

Funded project:

Network for Justice collaboration

For a couple of years the NPBC has provided support and assistance to the Network for Justice, which collates knowledge, insights, and learning from a broad range of expert sources and shares these across a community of organisations and individuals who are all working to support access to justice.

About the NetworkWebsite

The Pro Bono Protocol

The Pro Bono Protocol was developed to promote and support consistently high standards of pro bono work. The protocol seeks to build on the Professional Codes of Conduct that set out the standards and requirements that all lawyers must achieve and observe.

At all stages throughout their career many lawyers regard pro bono legal work as an integral part of being a member of the legal profession. It can provide access to justice and adress unmet legal need. The Protocol has been agreed to set out the core values of this work and to assist both those who undertake it, and their clients.

Many lawyers undertake charitable work of many different kinds. However, the purpose of the Protocol is to concentrate specifically on the provision of pro bono work by lawyers. We encourage everyone to take the Joint Pro Bono Protocol on board as part of their pro bono programme. It is designed to ensure we are all clear about what pro bono is and the standard to which it should be carried out.

You can read the Protocol on the LawWorks website via the button below.

Why volunteer?

We believe that doing pro bono work is one of the most rewarding parts of being a lawyer. It demonstrates a commitment to access to justice for all, provides an opportunity to use your professional skills for good helping people in life-changing ways and is a fantastic way to develop your legal skills.

Volunteering has been shown to be good for you – decreasing the risk of depression and increasing wellbeing. It is also known to improve job satisfaction and retention rates.

In our experience, three elements contribute to lasting and successful pro bono work:

1. The WHAT
It is important that a lawyer is capable of taking on the legal work. It must fall within their area of expertise (or in the case of secondary specialisation, they must have done sufficient training) so that they feel confident they have the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to take on the work and do it to a high standard.

2. The HOW
No-one would volunteer if it did not fit in with their daily life. Any work should be done at a time and place and in a way that works for you. For example, is it remote or in person? Is it weekly, monthly or an ongoing case or project? It needs to fit in alongside normal commitments so that it is not burdensome.

3. The WHY
People are motivated by causes that are important to them. Aligning pro bono with a cause that means something to you will mean you make an ongoing volunteer commitment. So, if you are passionate about the climate crisis, refugee rights or about helping the most vulnerable in society, you are more likely to make a long-term commitment if you do pro bono work which chimes with those particular beliefs.