Clifford Chance man heads group on pro bono mission

Clifford Chance partner Tony Willis has been appointed chair of the newly formed Solicitors Pro Bono Group.

Executive committee members are David Mackie of Allen & Overy, Nancy Nagle of Montague Harris, Paul Newdick of Clyde & Co, Andrew Phillips of Bates Wells & Braithwaite, Maggie Rae of Mishcon de Reya, Robin Smith of Dibb Lupton Alsop and Mark Stephens of Stephens Innocent.

The group aims to encourage and support solicitors and their firms in pro bono activities. Andrew Phillips, who was instrumental in setting it up, said the group wanted to be a “stimulator and pollinator – not in the front line but encouraging others”.

The Solicitors Pro Bono Group has been set up at a time when the Law Society is coming under increasing pressure to run some form of pro bono scheme itself. Labour's legal affairs spokesman Paul Boateng has threatened to legislate to force the Law Society to act. The Bar Council set up its own pro bono unit last June.

Phillips said that the new group, which remains independent of the Law Society, was “absolutely not a result of Paul Boateng's threats”.

The issue of Law Society involvement in pro bono work was discussed in a society policy committee meeting last Wednesday, where it was decided to offer the new group secretariat services and to look at ways of promoting pro bono to the profession as a whole.

A society spokesman said it is considering the creation of a Solicitors Representation scheme in partnership with others. He said: “We are doing everything we can and want to see pro bono extended. But we have to be practical – there are resources implications to these things.”