The National Pro Bono Centre brings together the three branches of the legal profession in England and Wales to improve co-ordination and collaboration. It will house the national clearing houses for pro bono work—the Bar Pro Bono Unit, LawWorks (the Solicitors Pro Bono Group) and Ilex Pro Bono Forum.
The new centre is intended to act as a hub for pro bono charities in the legal sector and should raise the profile of pro bono. There will “hot-desking” facilities for smaller or new pro bono projects. The Bar Pro Bono Unit was set up in 1996 by Peter Goldsmith QC with 350 panel members. It has now grown to more than 2,000 panel members, including over 250 QCs, and a staff of seven.
It aims to help people who cannot afford to pay for advice or representation, who cannot obtain public funds, and who have a meritorious case and require the help of a barrister. It matches those people with barristers willing to undertake pro bono work.
Rebecca Wilkie, chief executive officer of the Bar Pro Bono Unit, said: “We are delighted to confirm that the launch of the National Pro Bono Centre is now reaching its final stages.
“It will be a hub for national pro bono charities, helping individuals and community groups all over England and Wales ... Without the financial and professional support we garner from the Bar many more deserving cases would go without the advice and representation they so clearly need.
“The need for pro bono assistance is steadily growing and we are pleased to see the Bar continuing to rise to the challenge with more than 2,300 barristers on our panel of volunteers. The new centre will allow greater co-ordination and efficiency, with all three arms of the profession working together for the greater good.”