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The Solicitors Pro Bono Group (SPBG) has launched a study into how law faculties at universities promote a culture of free legal help, with the aim of identifying the level of the pro bono work carried out by each institution.
The survey, which will be sent out to law faculty heads at all UK universities this month, aims to identify areas where universities could benefit from support and guidance on how to establish pro bono clinics.
Richard Grimes, director of pro bono services and clinical education at the College of Law, will oversee the study, having taken a sabbatical from the College of Law to work with the SPBG on the project. He will be helped by a project manger, who will be sponsored by DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary.
"Everyone's a winner in professionally-run pro bono programmes," said Grimes. "The clients get a tailor-made service and the lawyers get a chance to get involved and, in my experience, get a huge amount of satisfaction from doing so."
The survey aims to identify the challenges faced by law faculties when setting up pro bono schemes and what makes a scheme successful.
The SPBG will use the findings to help universities with both support and advice. This will include putting law schools in touch with local firms which can help and advise on sourcing funding for pro bono schemes.
Grimes said: "Law firms recruit trainees and other staff that are better equipped to practise, and students have a wonderful opportunity to learn through the application of theory to practice.
"Their progress, in terms of knowledge, skills and values, is clear to see. Without removing the need for a properly resourced, publicly-funded legal service, pro bono schemes fill the gaps and respond to what might otherwise be an unmet need."
Michael Napier, the Attorney-General's pro bono envoy, is backing the initiative. "The provision of pro bono legal help to the public by students in a law school clinic, with the support of the local legal profession, is a proven, successful model," he said.