Barristers: How you can help

Practising drafting and representation skills are essential to a career at the Bar and pro bono work is a brilliant way to practice these with real-life cases.


Advocate (the Bar’s pro bono charity) brokers free legal assistance from volunteer barristers. It matches members of the public who need free legal help because they are unable to obtain legal aid and cannot afford to pay with barristers who are willing to donate their time and expertise to deserving cases.

Barristers can sign up to the panel from their second six onwards to take on discrete pieces of work that involve advice, drafting or representation. All work has been triaged by an Advocate caseworker and a volunteer reviewer, who is a senior barrister. Work is available in all areas of law and for all levels of call and mentoring is available to junior barristers just starting out.

Employed barristers can also volunteer with Advocate. Further information in the Guide to Pro Bono for Employed Barristers can be found on the In-house lawyers page.

Advocate also has a page listing its fourteen partner schemes, which focus on particular areas of law such as Chancery, Insolvency and Employment and include on-the-day duty schemes providing free representation.

They have also produced an extensive guide for pupils and supervisors undertaking pro bono, which can be accessed here.

Bar Council

The Bar Council website contains a wealth of information on how barristers can get involved in pro bono work. It shares links to external pro bono organisations and charities and hosts blog posts on barristers’ experiences of taking on pro bono.

It is also possible to get involved in pro bono through the Bar Council Pro Bono and Social Responsibility Committee, which leads work to promote pro bono volunteering by the Bar, alongside other responsibilities.

The Free Representation Unit (FRU)

Based in London, FRU works in two areas of law: social security and employment. Volunteers include junior barristers, law students who have finished their LLB or GDL and CILEX students who have completed their level 6 diploma.

FRU volunteers take on cases that have been referred from frontline advice agencies. When a case is referred, it will have already been presented to the relevant tribunal, who will have listed a hearing. To become a volunteer, you must attend a training day, pass a test to assess your competence, observe a tribunal and attend an office induction.

All volunteers are supervised by qualified legal officers.


Pro Bono Connect

Run by LawWorks in partnership with Advocate, this scheme operates a referral system to match barristers and solicitors so they can work together on existing pro bono cases. Solicitors’ firms and barristers’ chambers sign up to the scheme and can then request help on specific cases. Barristers who are in need of a pro bono solicitor should contact the Advocate Casework Team.

Areas of law covered currently include contractual disputes, civil fraud, employment, housing, bankruptcy/insolvency, property, and tax.

We also finance the development and scaling of this cross-sector initiative.

Law Centres Network

Law Centres offer legal advice, casework and representation to individuals and groups. Specialising in social welfare law, they have an in-depth knowledge of the issues communities face and use it to help people save their homes, keep their jobs and protect their families. 

Law centres exist all over the country and need both legally qualified volunteers and law students. Many operate pro bono clinics in which volunteers provide advice under qualified supervision. If you are a qualified lawyer or are involved in a college law clinic and would like to work pro bono with your local law centre, the Law Centres Network website has the latest opportunities.

The Employment Lawyers Association

The Employment Lawyers Association (ELA) has its own pro bono committee which encourages ELA members to get involved in pro bono initiatives and offers access to a wide variety of pro bono work. 

ELA runs the Employment Tribunal Litigant in Person Support Scheme (ELIPS). ELIPS provides online virtual clinics to litigants in person appearing before an employment tribunal. They are typically held on the first and third Thursday of every month and volunteers provide support in the form of one-off advice on the day of the clinic. Solicitors are covered by insurance through LawWorks and barristers through Advocate.

Pro Bono Costs Orders

Barristers doing pro bono legal work should record their time in case pro bono costs can be claimed. Pro bono costs are like ordinary costs, but where one party has had free legal representation. If your client wins, you can seek pro bono costs against the losing party under section 194 of the Legal Services Act 2007 and CPR 46.7.

Since 2022, some tribunals can also award pro bono costs. Pro bono costs are paid to the Access to Justice Foundation, which provides more information and a template pro bono costs schedule online.

Barristers can ask for their travel costs to be awarded within the pro bono costs order.

Guide to Pro Bono for Chambers Staff

Together with the Legal Practice Management Association and the Institute of Barristers’ Clerks, Advocate has published a Guide to Pro Bono in Chambers for chambers staff.

The Guide explains how to help barristers undertake pro bono legal work, covers how and why to sign up to get involved and gives details on how to support and encourage barristers. It also contains information about how pro bono work can be included in chambers’ marketing and communications, and how to record and track it using existing software.

Pro bono in retirement

Are you a retired barrister? You can still get involved in pro bono. Giving your time and skills to provide pro bono advice in retirement can be of enormous value to those requiring assistance, as well as an equally rewarding use of your time.

With a wide variety of types of pro bono and volunteering opportunities available, you can ensure you find a commitment that best suits your capacity and interests.

We recently completed a project in collaboration with Advocate and LawWorks, to provide information on pro bono for retired barristers and solicitors. This addresses how retirees can get or stay involved with pro bono work, and answers many commonly asked questions.