Chambers are appointing ‘pro bono champions’ as part of a new initiative to encourage barristers to take on not-for-profit work.
The move is a result of the Bar Pro Bono Unit’s ‘FABFeb’ campaign which ran over the course of February. The Unit contacted all heads of chambers, senior clerks and chambers directors, at sets with over 20 members, in mid-April and asked them to appoint a pro bono champion.
To date, 14 chambers have responded. Among the commercial sets that have already named barristers as champions are 7KBW, which has appointed John Bignall, and Littleton Chambers, which has chosen Benjamin Gray. Landmark Chambers, meanwhile, has handed the duties to practice manager Richard Bolton and HR head Carolyn Entwistle.
As yet, the only silk to be named a champion is Katie Gollop QC of Serjeants’ Inn Chambers. Gollop led Great Ormond Street’s legal team in the high-profile Charlie Gard case last year.
“The Bar Pro Bono Unit is an oasis of high quality advice and representation in a widening legal aid desert,” Gollop told The Lawyer. “Many barristers just can’t afford to do any more unpaid work and the Unit must not be seen as a substitute for proper legal aid. But those cats who can should and I’m proud to be Serjeants’ Inn Chambers’ first Pro Bono Champ. A single point of contact in each set is a great new initiative and will make it easier for those in need to get the advocacy at inquest, and in employment and regulatory tribunals, that they deserve.”
In addition to championing pro bono work within chambers, responsibilities include explaining ways that pro bono work can be of benefit in practice development; knowing pro bono cases that are being undertaken by members of chambers through the Unit; helping members of chambers register to do pro bono work; and ensuring pro bono stories are shared with the wider world.
Speaking to The Lawyer, the Bar Pro Bono Unit’s head of fundraising and communications Mary Dobson said: “The FAB February initiative we ran to try and find pro bono counsel for as many cases as possible, while demonstrating the deeply-held commitment of the Bar to helping people in need, also highlighted a few current issues. Prime among these is a presumption across the Bar that pro bono is taken care of, and that we manage to find a barrister for the majority of people who come to us for legal help. This is in fact not the case, and lots of barristers are not aware of the many reasons to do pro bono, including that it can be hugely beneficial in terms of personal practice development.”
She added: “The Pro Bono Champions initiative seeks to refresh the Unit’s pro bono offering and re-engage the Bar at all levels. We are delighted that 14 sets have already stepped up to nominate their Champions, and we look forward to launching the scheme officially in June at a special event hosted by our new corporate partner, Child & Co. The Unit helps hundreds of people every year with an incredible range of legal issues, and we need the Bar to be part of that work now more than ever.”