John Collins Pro Bono Excellence Award In partnership with the North-Eastern Circuit

Joshua Griffin Gatehouse Chambers

My main practice areas are commercial dispute resolution, and property and professional negligence. I enjoy my practice because it is engaging and intellectually challenging, with a good balance of both advocacy and written work.

I started taking pro bono cases as soon as I could – which was during my third-six with Gatehouse in late 2019. I had volunteered with Citizens Advice throughout university and really enjoyed it; in fact, one of the reasons I wanted to be a barrister was the opportunity for pro bono. It was therefore a natural choice to start taking cases with Advocate and I’ve continued to always keep one case on the go. I am grateful that Gatehouse is so supportive of pro bono work.

Working with Advocate has been truly rewarding. Simply put, I am able to volunteer in a way that uses my skills and experience to make a massive difference to someone else’s life. For example, helping one applicant get back wages owed to them by their employer, or another to receive compensation from a negligent legal professional (and, hopefully, restoring their faith in the legal profession at the same time!).

It may go without saying that pro bono work is rewarding, but I’ve found each case so valuable in building my practice as well. For example, I established a professional negligence practice after taking on pro bono cases in this area. I’ve also had the opportunity to work on cases that would otherwise be beyond my level of call – even appearing on my own in the Court of Appeal.

Overall, I would heartily recommend pro bono work to every barrister, and particularly to those who are new to practice. It is never too early to start. This is a rewarding, challenging and excellent way to build your practice, offering the chance to take on work that you might not otherwise do. Pro bono work is more important than ever given the historic drastic cuts to legal aid, exacerbated even further by the current cost of living crisis and the inaccessibility of the legal system.

I was genuinely surprised to win this award and it was really motivating to even be nominated. I feel more driven than ever to continue my pro bono practice. 

Social Responsibility Initiative of the Year

Bridging the Bar

Bridging the Bar (BTB) is a charity which works to support diversity and inclusion in the legal profession. Our mission is to remove the barriers which prevent individuals from underrepresented backgrounds from entering and succeeding in a career in the law. To achieve this, we provide aspiring barristers from underrepresented groups with access to unique and tailored professional development opportunities.

We are delighted to have been awarded the Social Responsibility Initiative of the Year Award at Advocate’s 2022 Bar Pro Bono Awards. The award shines a light on the incredible people and organisations with which we work, and serves as a reminder that innovation, combined resources and cooperation at the Bar is the key to solving inequality of opportunity. BTB is still only in its third year, yet our staff and volunteers have achieved remarkable results. This award is also recognition of the hard work they have invested into BTB’s activity thus far.

Since launching in the summer of 2020, BTB has made great strides in providing our candidates with the resources they need to succeed. We focus our efforts on those activities which are best suited to providing future barristers from underrepresented backgrounds with the skills, experience and networks required to develop a successful career at the Bar. This is what led us to build the BTB Academy in 2022.

The BTB Academy provides up to 100 candidates with access to a wide range of work experience and development opportunities including internships, life coaching, mentoring, advocacy training, work experience and more. One of the most highly sought-after opportunities within the Academy is the UK Supreme Court internship, where our best candidates spend a week working with Supreme Court Justices and their judicial assistants. We have also worked with the Court of Appeal and the High Court to provide similar invaluable work experience opportunities. Each Academy candidate is also provided with a ‘1 to 1’ mentor and access to a professional coaching ‘pod’, led by 10 BTB volunteers.

One of the most gratifying aspects of our work is to see the individual transformations our candidates undergo. It has been incredibly fulfilling to see how, in just a few months, a group of potential future leaders in our profession grow more confident, competent and trusting of their own ability to become the barristers they aspire to be. Those who are given access to and absorb as much as they can from BTB’s ecosystem often find that their skillset, mindset and knowledge of their intended career path are significantly transformed.

At BTB, we’re confident that if we can continue to provide this experience for more future barristers from underrepresented groups at scale, recruitment at the Bar will continue to become more equitable. 

Lifetime Achievement Award for Pro Bono Work 2022

Francesca Quint Radcliffe Chambers, Lincoln’s Inn

I was called in 1970. I am a specialist in charity law, having spent the first half of my professional career as a Civil Service lawyer in the Charity Commission. Since then, I have been in independent practice at the Chancery Bar with chambers in London and, for a time, also in Exeter. My clients are mostly charities, individuals wishing to benefit charities, and those wishing to set up charities. My practice is now wholly advisory or concerned with drafting, and during my career I have been involved in writing articles, delivering lectures, taking part in official consultations and contributing to legal publications on the subject of charities.

To receive a lifetime achievement award makes one think one is expected to retire some time soon, but I enjoy my work and have no present plans to retire. Working with charities and similar institutions is rewarding because one is not merely asked to assist them to win a dispute or gain a sum of money or property. Charities of course engage in all kinds of activities, and the variety is interesting: I recently had to advise the Tank Museum Ltd on selling a piece of artillery, scarcely a common problem for charities but one in which the principles of charity law and the interpretation of documents were highly relevant, as well as needing to become familiar with the rudiments of the law relating to export licences.

With charities as clients, I have often been asked to carry out work pro bono or for a reduced fee and I have been happy to do so provided that the client charity is likely to value, and thus benefit from, the advice. This has led naturally to my taking an interest in the work of Advocate (formerly the Bar Pro Bono Unit). However, when I first began, Advocate received very few applications relating to charities since most applicants were individuals with personal claims. This meant both that I gained some practical insight into other areas of law and also that, when the opportunity arose, I became a Reviewer, assessing whether or not Advocate should agree to take on an applicant’s case and provide a volunteer barrister to provide advice, representation and/or drafting.

Again, there has been a great variety in the types of cases and applicants involved, even though Advocate made a practice of kindly sending me applications within the broad, Chancery and public law field. Some of the work involved reading a substantial file of papers (nowadays in digital form), and some of the questions, regardless of the value of the potential claim, were legally obscure. The other common factor was that applicants were often facing personal and financial difficulties, or had serious health issues. Sometimes I found that although the claim had a limited chance of success, it seemed appropriate that the applicant should at least receive a considered legal opinion, so that they at least understood why the claim would be problematic to pursue.

I would recommend any barrister to undertake a modicum of pro bono work, mainly for its intrinsic interest but also because there are many people worried by legal problems who do not have the resources to obtain independent advice. It feels right for someone who benefits financially from those who can afford to pay for legal advice or representation to spend some time assisting those who cannot, or – where the client is a charity – those whose work is itself beneficial to the public.