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A new steering group led by the Solicitors’ Pro Bono Group (SPBG) has compiled a survey with the aim of educating law students on pro bono programmes available at firms throughout England and Wales.
The survey by the SPBG-led group, which consists of representatives from the College of Law, the Manchester School of Law and BPP Law School, will form the basis of a new publication aimed at law students interested in pro bono initiatives.
The survey was sent to 150 law firms around England and Wales at the beginning of June. It is an attempt to elicit information concerning existing pro bono practices. Once gathered, the information will form the basis of the publication entitled ‘A Guide to Law Firm Pro Bono Programmes in England and Wales’. It will be distributed to law schools throughout England and Wales and posted on the SPBG website.
Kara Irwin, director of pro bono at BPP Law School, has been involved in the survey since its inception. She said that the idea for the survey and publication began because so many law students were not clear about exactly what different firms do regarding pro bono. “Some information is to be found on websites, although it is not always UK-specific,” said Irwin. “We wanted to be able to meet students’ increasing interest in pro bono. This is the principal drive of the research.”
Irwin believes a culture of pro bono should begin at law school. “If students are involved in pro bono work at the very beginning of their training then down the road they’ll see pro bono work as the norm,” she says. “I’m hopeful that by the time this generation of law students gets to partner stage there will have been a cultural change and pro bono will have become mainstream.”
The secondary goal of the survey and publication is to give law firms a better understanding of a range of possibilities for structuring their pro bono. Analysis of the survey will focus on general trends, such as the number of firms that have pro bono policies, the firms with pro bono information on their websites and the differences, if any, in the amount of pro bono hours done between firms.