For 10 years, the National Pro Bono Centre was based in the heart of the legal community on Chancery Lane, established with support from the Bar Council, the Law Society and what was then “ILEX”. The NPBC’s initial sponsors included Linklaters LLP, FTI Consulting and Slaughter and May, along with many other law firms and barristers’ chambers, all of which recognised the increasing need for pro bono legal assistance.
The first three organisations to be housed in the NPBC were Advocate (then the Bar Pro Bono Unit), LawWorks (the Solicitors’ Pro Bono Group) and the ILEX Pro Bono Forum. Weekly meetings of senior staff built the foundation for more collaboration across the pro bono sector and the NPBC hosted meetings and coordinated participation in national networking events. The Centre was pivotal in helping to grow National Pro Bono Week, an annual event celebrating pro bono work and the people who participate in it.
By offering other charities the chance to hot desk and share meeting spaces, the NPBC expanded, welcoming more organisations keen to cooperate, including the Access to Justice Foundation, the London Legal Support Trust, Pro Bono Community, the Legal Action Group and the Litigant In Person Support Strategy.
In 2020, the office lease expired just as the pandemic began, which served as a timely moment to put in place plans for the future. From 2020 onwards, the NPBC has focused on supporting cross-sector initiatives and helping a wider range of pro bono charities throughout the legal sector in England and Wales.