Each year Pro Bono Week gives the opportunity to acknowledge the huge – and vital – contribution that volunteer lawyers make in enabling people to access justice.
We know that many people simply cannot afford to pay for a solicitor and with access to legal aid now severely limited, it is only through pro bono services that they can begin to understand and defend their legal rights, as Natalie, one of our volunteer lawyers, explains:
“Pro bono is an extremely important way of helping members of the public who cannot afford to pay for legal advice. This promotes fairness and access to justice throughout the community.”
Being able to get the correct legal advice is crucial, as Beverley, another of our volunteer lawyers, says:
“It is so important for everybody who needs legal advice to be able to access it. Clients may be trying to deal with issues which potentially affect their lives and livelihood.”
Sital, who volunteers in our family law clinic, agrees:
“It makes a huge difference to people. Often, this is their last chance to obtain legal advice on their matter which could affect them for the rest of their lives. They may be signposted to different agencies or given guidance on how to conduct their matter and get the best result for their case as a result of this.”
We run one of the largest pro bono schemes in the country and last year our 400 volunteers gave around £1.5m of free legal advice, enabling over 3,000 people to access justice.
From the feedback we receive, we know that this advice unlocks problems, helps people move on with their lives and builds confidence. Here are just a few of the comments clients have given:
“I have used the Law Centre on two separate occasions for housing matters. I cannot recommend them enough. On both occasions I felt that my issue was dealt with very efficiently.”
“I spoke to two solicitors from your office. They were knowledgeable, informative and I got the outcome I hoped for thanks to their help. It’s a brilliant service.”
“Your law advisors are extremely professional and give appropriate and right advice for the situation a person is in. I would give your advisors ten out of ten. The advice is always spot on. Thank you so much for the service.”
“I followed her advice and used the information she provided and I was able to reach an immediate resolution with the other party after about four months of going round in circles.”
It’s not just our clients who benefit from this service. Our volunteer lawyers also report gaining a huge amount personally from taking part:
“It is a privilege to empower clients with the necessary knowledge to help them take the best course of action and provide certainty and clarity about what can be done about their problems. The process from interview to sending the letter of advice has been incredibly rewarding each time as I know that I have had a direct impact on someone’s life and wellbeing. As a trainee solicitor and now junior lawyer, being a part of clinic programmes offers an incredible opportunity to challenge my writing style and ensure that I write as clear and simple as possible without losing any detail.” (Felix)
“I have benefited hugely by feeling like I am making a difference within the community and using my time to help others.” (Lara)
If you would like to volunteer in our legal advice clinics, and are either a qualified solicitor with a current practising certificate or a practising barrister, and have experience in the area of law you wish to advise on, we would love to hear from you – please contact us here.
As Beverley says:
“Go for it. It is really no time at all out of your working week and it is very fulfilling.”