Plea to ministers as pro bono week begins

Plea to ministers as pro bono week beginsThe Law Society joined forces with the Bar Council and the Institute of Legal Executives this morning to launch the seventh annual Pro Bono Week.

It is expected to be the biggest event of its kind to date, with more than 70 organised events compared with 30 in 2007.

Michael Napier, Irwin Mitchell partner and the Attorney General’s pro bono envoy, said: “During this decade pro bono legal work by lawyers has become accepted as a mainstream part of the legal scene. Pro bono is a win-win – both as a positive commitment to community and social responsibility by those firms and individuals who provide free legal help, and a lifeline for people whose otherwise unmet legal needs benefit from ;receiving ;free ­professional help.”

The theme of this week’s event is legal education. It aims to encourage more lawyers to dedicate more time to the community, which in turn will elevate the standing of the profession in those communities.

At the same time, however, Law Society president Paul Marsh and bar chairman Tim Dutton joined with Napier in urging the Government not to use pro bono as a substitute for legal aid.

Marsh said: “The profession’s pro bono contribution isn’t simply delivered in the courts or traditional advice sessions. It’s also delivered in schools, to community groups, ;by ;resolving ­disputes out of court and by using legal skills and knowledge not just to address problems, but to support improved legal literacy – because understanding one’s rights and responsibilities in relation to the law can prevent legal difficulties from occurring at all.”

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