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More than half the nation's law schools are now involved in pro bono work, new research reveals.
A survey conducted by LawWorks, formerly known as the Solicitors Pro Bono Group, shows that 53 per cent of UK law schools now run pro bono projects.
A further 12 per cent of schools are due to launch pro bono groups at the start of the new academic year in September 2007, while another 8 per cent say they are considering starting a project.
LawWorks chief executive Robert Gill says: "Increased law school pro bono work has a positive benefit not just for the public, but also for the young people doing it and for the firms that later employ them.
"Young people gain incredible experience when they do pro bono work, which is a perfect example of real-life learning. Law schools can try and set up all sorts of simulations, but helping real people doesn't half help sharpen the mind."
The survey reveals a significant increase in law school pro bono activity in recent years. If the 12 per cent of law schools due to start doing pro bono work next year are included in the total, the number of law schools doing pro bono leapt by almost 50 per cent since the last LawWorks survey in 2003, rising from 43 to 65 per cent. However, Gill adds that the survey did reveal "one dark spot".
"There is a problem with funding," he says. "It's not their fault, but if universities could just eke out a little more funding for pro bono projects they'd see the investment paid back exponentially."
Sixty-four per cent of the law schools doing pro bono work were found to be providing some funding for the projects, but this amounts to an average of only £22,000. And if one exceptionally generous institution is excluded from this average, the figure falls to just £2,700.
Gill adds that students interested in doing pro bono work who are studying at a law school that does not have a pro bono group should "lobby their law school to get one up and running".
The LawWorks survey was funded by DLA Piper. The project was overseen by Richard Grimes, former head of pro bono at the College of Law, who donated 50 hours of pro bono work to the project.