Awards preview: pro bono activity of the year

On 22 June, 1400 people will crowd into the Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane for the most eagerly-awaited event of the year. With only one week to go, The Lawyerbrings you a sneak preview of the shortlisted individuals and teams

Browne Jacobson

Midlands firm Browne Jacobson has set a tough pro bono precedent for its competitors in the region. Having supplied pro bono advice to Portland College for the disabled for more than 30 years, the firm has made its commitment to providing free legal advice clear. Now, half of its employees have committed to pro bono projects, completing more than 1,100 hours in the last 24 months. The firm undertakes a diverse range of initiatives, including working with victim support, the Citizens Advice Bureau and litigation for the Alcohol Problems Advisory Service. Browne Jacobson was also the first regional firm to adopt the Law Society’s joint protocol for legal pro bono work.

BPP Law School

Under the guidance of its first pro bono director, the tireless Kara Irwin, BPP Law School has become a pro bono trailblazer among legal education providers. Since Irwin took up the reins, the law school has launched its dedicated pro bono centre and has signed the Solicitors Pro Bono Group joint protocol. The centre is pioneering a series of novel initiatives, from legal advice clinics to a programme in which students shadow City lawyers in their pro bono assignments. Under the Mediation Friends Project, law students trained in mediation provide free help to unrepresented parties in mediation, while students can also become involved in the Citizenship Foundation, an educational charity designed to improve awareness among schoolchildren of the law, democracy and society.


Dechert’s effort to institutionalise pro bono work has seen the firm move from an ad hoc approach to an organised programme of various UK and internationally-based pro bono initiatives. The appointment of full-time pro bono partner Suzie Turner in 2003 (who manages a firm-wide pro bono caseload as well as her own) and the novel introduction of distinct pro bono practice groups in the firm’s Philadelphia office, have served to cement the firm’s long-standing pro bono commitment. In London, Dechert boasts handling the largest number of LawWorks for Community Groups schemes of any firm and established a partnership with the North Kensington Law Centre in evening sessions regarding consumer, small claims and employment law.

Law Works – SPBG

For more than three years LawWorks, in partnership with the Solicitors Pro Bono Group, has provided access to justice for those who are not eligible for public funding and who do not have sufficient funds to engage private legal help. LawWorks’ incarnations include legal advice clinics where more than 16,000 members of the public are advised each year, and a web component delivering pro bono advice over the internet. Additionally, the LawWorks Community Groups’ referral service matches not-for-profit groups with pro bono lawyers, Student LawWorks runs conferences for students and helps set up pro bono schemes in law schools, and LawWorks Mediation has recruited more than 50 qualified mediators who volunteer to take on pro bono mediation.

39 Essex Street

Last year, 39 Essex Street’s members saved a town from demolition, gave advice to the Attorney-General on conditional fee arrangements to promote the use of pro bono work, and supported human rights organisation Liberty. The 39-member set’s impressive commitment to pro bono is illustrated by the fact that each member contributes an average of 20 hours a year to pro bono work, often incurring their own costs in the process. While pro bono is wholly voluntary, a culture of community service pervades the set, from the juniors, who staff the Liberty helpline once a fortnight, up to Edwin Glasgow QC, a regular visitor to South Africa, where he assists with advocacy and judicial training.


Last year Linklaters, in conjunction with the Hackney Community Law Centre, conceived of a clinic and a series of legal seminars to be accessible to those in the borough of Hackney, where more than 96 per cent of businesses are small or medium-sized. Fortnightly clinics and monthly seminars now provide free legal information and advice to small businesses and community groups that would otherwise be unable to pay fpr such aid. The programmes are unique, not only because Linklaters initiated and now partners the schemes, but also because advice is given by a specialist lawyer in a particular field.