Pro bono work treated as poor relation, finds Law Soc survey

THE MAJORITY of firms which give pro bono advice are not keeping proper records of the work they are doing, according to a survey of 460 firms conducted by the Law Society.

The survey, published last week, found that 68 per cent of the firms which were giving free advice “kept no record of the time spent on such activities”.

The figure has been seized on by the Solicitors' Pro Bono Group (SPBG) as evidence that firms are not treating pro bono work seriously enough – despite the survey's finding that 90 per cent of practices give free advice and more than two thirds believe it enhances their reputation in the local community.

SPBG director Peta Sweet said the group was delighted that so many firms were doing pro bono work – and especially pleased that they recognised it enhanced their standing.

But she added: “The survey would appear to show that pro bono work is being conducted in an ad hoc fashion. That would indicate that pro bono work is not in practice being treated as terribly valuable.”

Lovell White Durrant assistant solicitor Yasmin Waljee, who last month became the first full-time pro bono officer in a City firm, added: “It is vital that firms treat pro bono clients exactly how they would treat all their other clients; that is the only way they can ensure they are giving the same quality of advice.”

The survey also showed that almost three quarters of firms donate cash to charity and that they focus their pro bono work on people who are not eligible for legal aid.

Almost half had solicitors who gave up their spare time to charity, while almost a third sponsored local events.

Law Society president Phillip Sycamore said: “The survey reinforces the fact that we are a caring profession, and play a central role nationally and in our local communities.”

The Lawyer launches Pro Bono Watch – see p22.