Pro Bono Watch

With the start of the legal year, the Bar Pro Bono Unit marks a new beginning of its own as we introduce our new Head of Casework, Melanie Ross


As we begin to implement our new organisational strategy, this autumn we are also delighted to be welcoming Melanie Ross to the Bar Pro Bono Unit as our new Head of Casework. In her first few days here, I sat down with Melanie.

JC: What inspired you to apply for the role?

MR: I was drawn to working with vulnerable people and it was clear from the job description that the Bar Pro Bono Unit was receiving applications from people with mental health problems, who were suffering from serious debt issues or were likely to lose their home, child or liberty. It is obvious that when faced with a legal problem even the most savvy of us will feel exposed, but the Unit is dealing with those most at risk in our society and that was a cause I wanted to be involved in.

Secondly, strange it may be, but there’s little that motivates, (or equally aggravates) me more in everyday life than efficiency or its absence. I hate it when things don’t work effectively or could work better. The Unit was calling for someone to drive efficiency and efficacy to create an exemplary service. This was definitely the right job and environment for me.

JC: What has been your path to the Unit?

MR: I practised as a commercial litigation solicitor for many years following qualification and was partner at what is now K&L Gates. I spent time as in-house counsel, most notably for a well-known UK travel company, leading their customer legal service department.

I have spent several years in the US where I set up and ran a real estate business and raised my family. It was this time that sparked my admiration for the American commitment to great customer service.

In the last year since returning to the UK, I have worked at Serjeants’ Inn as a client care and operations consultant.

JC: What excites you most about this position?

MR: Getting to work in an enterprise which delivers a service to people who most need it with a highly motivated and energetic team. Joining the Unit now is particularly exciting due to the work that has been done over the last 18 months to become more accessible and supportive by creating an online application form and portal for volunteer barristers. Now is the time for me to contribute to the charitable service and to enhance and strengthen it.

JC: As you join the Bar Pro Bono Unit team, what would you like the readers of Counsel to know?

MR: During my extended absence from England I took a sizeable career break, primarily to raise my three children. After many years of cheering from the sidelines (metaphorically and literally) in a foreign place, it now feels exhilarating to be back on the field of play myself. I return to the reassuringly familiar legal world with a broader perspective on life, considerably more pragmatism and a good dose of humour!


The Legal Wheel Appeal

We set five cyclists the task of pedaling from London to Paris for access to justice. They set out from Crystal Palace on 21 September and completed 186 miles on the bike, concluding the challenge three days later in a spectacular finish at the foot of the Eiffel Tower! This year’s cyclists were:

  • Richard Bolton (Practice Manager and Pro Bono Champion at Landmark Chambers)
  • Paul Infield (Barrister at 36 Family)
  • Patrick Taylor (Barrister at 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square)
  • Vanessa Reid (Future pupil at Carmelite Chambers)
  • Loretta Guarino Reid (Software Engineer at Google)

It was a tough challenge but our cyclists were spurred on by the knowledge that they were raising money for and awareness of an important cause: access to justice for all. Find out more about them, support their efforts and read about the challenge in more detail here.

If you are interested in taking part in The Legal Wheel Appeal in 2019, please register your interest by emailing communications@barprobono.org.uk.


Pro Bono Champions

Has your set nominated its Pro Bono Champion yet? This year we launched the Pro Bono Champions initiative, a way to engage chambers more directly with pro bono work. We are delighted to see so many champions come forward from the ranks of both clerk and barrister, with nine silks declaring for their set.

One of our champions is one of our ‘The Legal Wheel Appeal’ cyclists, Richard Bolton at Landmark Chambers. Richard said:

‘The role the Bar Pro Bono Unit plays in keeping justice accessible for everyone has never been more important. Through The Legal Wheel Appeal, I aim to both raise vital funds and to also increase awareness of the work undertaken by the Unit and the volunteer barristers.’

The full list of champions can be found here. Join Richard and become a Pro Bono Champion for your chambers. Contact mdobson@barprobono.org.uk for more information.


London Landmarks Half Marathon

We have 10 places in this year’s London Landmarks Half Marathon! Taking place on Sunday 24 March 2019, it is a closed road run through central London. Starting at Pall Mall the route passes Big Ben, St Paul’s Cathedral, the London Eye and the Tower of London before ending at Downing Street.

Last year Simon Gledhill of 3 Temple Gardens achieved a Guinness World Record for the fastest half marathon whilst wearing barrister robes! Can you beat his time of 1:48:01? The route loops legal London TWICE so your colleagues have no excuse not to come down and cheer you on.

Register your interest or find out more here.


The Great Legal Quiz

Registration is open for The Great Legal Quiz 2018, which takes place during Justice Week on Thursday 1 November. Quiz teams across the country compete and have fun while raising money for people in need of specialist free legal help and advice. If your chambers is considering hosting a quiz for client or staff entertainment, would you nominate 50% of the funds you raise to donate to the Bar Pro Bono Unit?

For more information on how to get involved, please see here.


Celebrate Christmas

Join the Bar Pro Bono Unit and LawWorks this Christmas in our second-ever carol concert, Celebrate Christmas, held on Tuesday 18 December at beautiful Temple Church. The evening will see a mix of sing-along congregational carols and musical performances as well as seasonal readings from guests including Lady Hale and Gyles Brandreth to get you in the festive spirit.

Tickets range from £10 to £45, with the top price (and best located) tickets including a sparkling drinks reception after the carol concert in the Temple Round. There will also be a raffle held on the night with a variety of exciting prizes.

We welcome all from the legal profession to join us in this opportunity to celebrate Christmas and to raise money for those in need of legal help who cannot afford to pay for it. Book your tickets now to avoid disappointment! ●

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Jess Campbell

Jess is Chief Executive of the Bar Pro Bono Unit, before which she spent five years at the Bar Council as head of policy for regulatory issues and law reform.