The Solicitors Pro Bono Group (SPBG) has called the decision to allow government lawyers to carry out pro bono work a “very important breakthrough”.
Solicitor General Ross Cranston has told the House of Commons that both he and the Attorney General were keen to encourage government lawyers wanting to handle pro bono work.
“Those in charge of the Government Legal Service have looked at this matter… and have concluded it is possible to encourage government lawyers to participate in pro bono work as well,” he says.
SPBG has lobbied hard to persuade the Government to approve the idea. Director Peta Sweet comments: “I look forward to learning how the Attorney General has concluded that it is possible to encourage government lawy-ers to do pro bono work.”
She says that although government lawyers – of which there are around 1,200 – may be barred from some pro bono work because of a conflict of interest, there are still “a range of things they can get involved in”.
The Solicitor General did not give details of what sort of encouragement would be given. However, he stresses: “We don't see… pro bono work as a substitute for the public provision of legal services. It is additional to the public support to access to justice which the Access to Justice Bill will provide.”