The story so far

Last week, The Lawyer reported on the new pro bono protocol that, for the first time, defines what legal pro bono is. The protocol sets out basic standards for legal pro bono work. It defines pro bono legal work as “legal advice or representation provided by lawyers to individuals and community groups who cannot afford to pay for that advice and where public funding is not available”. The protocol also states that only qualified lawyers should undertake pro bono work and that “the lawyer must give that work the same priority, attention and care as would apply to paid work”. The College of Law, Clifford Chance and Covington & Burling have already signed up.

Kurt Wimmer, managing partner, Covington & Burling
“The symbolic value of the protocol is that it shows that law firms recognise the importance of pro bono and it encourages more and more to do so. The American Bar Association calls for firms to devote 3 per cent of billable hours to pro bono. That's a much more prescriptive approach than we have here. I don't expect that to happen here, but it's a step in the right direction.”

Sara Chandler, senior supervising solicitor, Legal Advice Centre, the College of Law
“It's a clear guideline that helps anyone who's doing pro bono to put their work in context. My background is law centres and it means that people who come to do volunteering with us already know what is expected. Many of their questions are answered in advance. I think law firms will sign up to it. The feedback of young lawyers who've got involved has been that they really enjoy it and that it adds to the quality of their career life. Clients like to know whether firms are doing pro bono. It's all part of knowing that the profession is putting something back.”

Cathy Jones, community affairs, Clifford Chance
“I think the benefits are that it does provide a useful building block on which to develop your pro bono programme or to create a pro bono strategy if you don't have a formal programme already. It's a very good comprehensive, but succinct and tangible, guide. We have our own criteria and our own internal protocol on how to take on a pro bono matter. The pro bono protocol complements that nicely. It's a tangible confirmation that a law firm takes pro bono seriously and in a professional manner.”