Opened a day before the Government’s long-awaited Comprehensive Spending Review, the NPBC provides an ideal showcase for the legal profession’s role in the ‘Big Society’, drawing together national legal charities the Bar Pro Bono Unit, LawWorks (the Solicitors’ Pro Bono Group) and the ILEX Pro Bono Forum. “Hot desk” facilities will allow the development of new initiatives.
The coming together of the three charities, which work with Citizens Advice Bureaux, Law Centres and frontline agencies across England & Wales, aims to provide a more joined-up service to members of the public and to community groups in need of legal help but cannot access legal aid and who cannot afford to pay legal fees. Whilst not a replacement for legal aid, the pro bono services offered by the charities enable access to a wide range of legal professionals across the broadest spread of practice areas and across the whole of England & Wales.
For individuals, this means access to essential legal services such as housing law and employment law, family law and immigration law. For example, community groups and small charities are able to receive advice on business law to ensure that they can maintain their role at the heart of their communities. Robin Knowles CBE QC, the Chairman of the Bar Pro Bono Unit, speaking on behalf of the three charities and the NPBC, said:
“We are absolutely delighted, after much hard teamwork and dedication, especially by our staff, to launch the Centre. It represents a further step change in the public service offered by all three branches of the legal profession, working together. We have been saying for many years that pro bono is part of being a lawyer, and the establishment of the National Pro Bono Centre both helps demonstrate that and will further enable it.
We are indebted to the many generous sponsors who have allowed the National Pro Bono Centre to happen. As well as recognising the ongoing support from the Bar Council, the Law Society and ILEX, we must thank, in particular, Diamond Sponsor FTI Consulting and Platinum Sponsors, Linklaters LLP and Slaughter & May, for their generous backing. But every single contribution, large and small, from law firms, barristers’ chambers, companies and individuals has made an enormous difference. Bringing the pro bono community together in this important, new and exciting way will make a further positive difference to many people’s lives, and in turn to society. I am proud of the profession’s readiness to make this happen.”
Des Hudson, Chief Executive of the Law Society said: “I believe that the creation of the National Pro Bono Centre is unique in this country and, more than that, is a world first. It re-affirms the pro bono community in its rightful place at the heart of the mainstream legal community, and we are naturally proud to endorse it.”
David Hobart, Chief Executive of the Bar Council said: “The significance of the National Pro Bono Centre is the facility for all three arms of the legal profession to come together in their work in the public interest. The Bar Council is delighted to support the increase in collaboration and coordination which will result from its establishment.”
Diane Burleigh, Chief Executive of ILEX said: “The National Pro Bono Centre will provide a vital sharedplatform to raise the delivery of pro bono legal services and help the profession to reach more members of the public in need of advice and representation. This is a truly exciting initiative and ILEX is delighted to be a part of it.”