Govt told to force QCs to do more pro bono

SILKS should do one day a month pro bono work in return for being made QCs, says the Labour MP masterminding a campaign against the present system.

Solicitor and MP Andrew Dismore says barristers who receive an average £250,000 as juniors and then enjoy a leap in earnings on being made QCs should pay back some of the money by being ordered to do free work.

“They should do one day a month pro bono, as a minimum. We should make it a condition of awarding somebody a silk,” says Dismore.

He adds: “I think most QCs are doing very little pro bono work.”

Bar Council spokesman Jon McLeod says: “The Bar Pro Bono Unit is the only true register of professionals who are committed and on call to give free advice.

“A high proportion of QCs – nearly 25 per cent – are members of that unit, and they do it of their own free will.

“On the principle that volunteering is better than coercion…the existing system is a good one.”

McLeod points out that solicitors have no equivalent register for doing pro bono work.

The Lord Chancellor's Department, which appoints silks, admitted in a written parliamentary answer to a question posed by Dismore that “neither the undertaking of, nor a willingness to undertake, pro bono work is one of the published criteria for appointment”.