Labour eyes US pro bono model

TWO American Bar Association (ABA) projects in Chicago which are successfully increasing public access to justice would be models for the Law Society and Bar Council in the development of pro bono work under a Labour government, says Labour legal spokesman Paul Boateng MP.

The ABA Center for Pro Bono attracts lawyers and resources from private practice for specific projects and has now been copied in some 800 locations in the US.

The ABA Law Technology Center is developing use of information technology to provide instant advice to the public.

One example is the Autolaw Machine, which analyses legal issues and prints pro forma legal documents.

Boateng says: “The door is wide open to the Law Society and the Bar Council for co-operation with a Labour government genuinely committed to an expansion of legal services based on public-private partnership.”

It is understood that Boateng will write to society President Charles Elly and Bar Council chairman Robert Seabrook QC to encourage dialogue and to consult the profession on practical proposals arising from the US and other common law jurisdictions.

The Bar has already shown a commitment to learning from other jurisdictions. It has signed a protocol of co-operation with other international bar associations – forming the International Consortium on Access to Law – to share knowledge about improvements to judicial systems and delivery of legal services.

Issues on pro bono and public IT access to legal information will be contained in Labour's imminent consultation paper 'Justice indeed'.

The party's paper will also include questions on a possible levy on private practice to fund the public legal sector, a legal foundation to act as a catalyst for private/public sector co-operation and research, the creation of a Ministry of Justice and the greater use of alternative dispute resolution techniques.