Pro bono round up

Lord Goldsmith QC has expressed concern that budgets for pro bono and voluntary advice sector budgets are falling just as the recession is increasing demand.

Addressing the National Pro Bono Conference, in London in November, he emphasised the need for lawyers to seek pro bono costs
orders, pointing out that they produced a “double win” for pro bono clients by generating new funds to support other pro bono work in the future. Lawyers needed to be “creative” to fi nd other means of funding, such as unclaimed client accounts. “This sector is stretched to capacity, swamped by an ever increasing demand and an ever decreasing budget,” he said.

“Meanwhile money is sitting there, unused, in a range of situations. Unclaimed client accounts are one example, but there are no doubt others if we think ambitiously and creatively.” Lord Goldsmith a nnounced the first funding grants made by the Access to Justice Foundation, a charity which provides financial assistance for pro bono legal work. More than £25,000 has been distributed between 14 organisations in England and Wales. The winner of this year’s Sydney Elland Goldsmith Bar Pro Bono Award is Andrew Walker of Maitland Chambers, who successfully represented a couple who faced eviction after entering into a “sale and rent back” scheme. He persuaded the court to set aside the entire transaction, and the case attracted a £20,000 pro bono costs order in favour of the Access to Justice Foundation. John Gallagher , Principal Solicitor, Shelter, said “as a result of Andrew’s skilled and innovative arguments, the case broke new ground”. In addition, more than 50 “pro bono heroes” attended a Parliamentary reception hosted by the Attorney General, Baroness Scotland QC at the beginning of Pro Bono Week 2009 (9-13 November). They were nominated by members of the Attorney General ’s Pro Bono Committee, which includes representatives of the legal profession and the voluntary sector. Baroness Scotland said: “It’s not in the nature of those who act pro bono to seek out recognition or praise for their eff orts. Th e reception is a way of celebrating the work the pro bono heroes carry out.”