Huge rise in pro bono help

Applications to the Bar Pro Bono Unit for assistance trebled in its second year of operation, according to its recently published annual report.

The unit received 750 requests for help in the year to May 1998, as opposed to 250 in its first year of operation. Some 40 per cent of applicants received assistance.

The unit's chairman, Peter Goldsmith QC, said the priority over the coming year was to improve liaison with solicitors, both in terms of getting more firms to refer cases to the unit, and by developing a panel of firms willing to work with barristers on requests made by members of the public.

“It also remains a priority to recruit barristers from a broad range of specialist areas and from all circuits of the Bar, to ensure that expert representation in provincial courts and tribunals can be secured,” he said.

Some 900 barristers, including 155 QCs, are now members of the unit, willing to give at least three days free assistance a year to clients who would otherwise be denied legal advice.