Pro Bono Watch

Jess Campbell explains a landmark Court of Appeal Unit case and the importance of pro bono costs orders; updates on strategic funding opportunities; and shares current cases looking for counsel by area of law and Circuit

There are a multitude of reasons to undertake a pro bono case, but one that brings many junior barristers to our door is that Bar Pro Bono Unit cases offer the junior Bar an opportunity to take their first steps in the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.

Last month I heard about an interesting case taken through the Unit that allowed a barrister to do just that. Winston Jacob of Lamb Chambers accepted a Unit case in October 2016 which came before the Court of Appeal in February this year. The case related to ‘right to manage’ legislation and the six-year efforts of a group of pensioners living in a retirement home in Plymouth. With concerns around staffing, care, car parking and intercom systems, the elderly residents sought the right to appoint a management company of their own choosing rather than the designated management company.

The ruling has been described as landmark, with the Court of Appeal considering the correct approach to non-compliance with the right to manage legislation for the first time. Here, Jacob explains what this new development might mean for others seeking the right to manage: ‘When the government originally proposed the right to manage legislation, it envisaged a simple procedure for qualifying tenants to acquire the right to manage their blocks without having to prove fault on their landlord’s part.

‘However, such claims have not proved simple in practice. Tenants often make mistakes in following the procedure and landlords have regularly been able to argue that these have invalidated the right to manage claim.

‘In Elim Court RTM Co Ltd v Avon Freeholds Ltd [2017] EWCA Civ 89, the Court of Appeal has thrown such tenants a lifeline. The tenants failed to follow the procedure by omitting some information from one statutory notice and by failing to serve another notice on one intermediate landlord of a single flat in the block which had no management responsibilities. The Upper Tribunal held that both failures were sufficiently serious to invalidate the claim. The Court of Appeal disagreed, describing one of the failures as “trivial”, and allowed the claim.

‘The more flexible approach adopted by the Court of Appeal is likely to assist many future right to manage claims where tenants have made relatively minor procedural mistakes. The landlord has sought permission to appeal from the Supreme Court and I am assisting the tenants via the Bar Pro Bono Unit in opposing that application.’

Not only was this case a great opportunity for Jacob to be heard by Court of Appeal judges for some very deserving individuals, but his subsequent actions contributed support to a much wider group to access legal help. Jacob secured a favourable pro bono costs order for £5,000. All pro bono costs orders awarded are paid to the Access to Justice Foundation (ATJF) which then distributes funds to help frontline agencies including law centres across the country, the Asylum Support Appeals Project, the Prisoners Advice Service and Coram Children’s Legal Centre, among many others.

Courts were given authority to award these payments almost 10 years ago in 2008; however awareness amongst the Bar is relatively low and just 32 pro bono costs orders were made in 2016.

Josephine Davies of 20 Essex Street recently secured a £14,600 pro bono costs order. Davies described the process as ‘perfectly straightforward’, saying: ‘I was very pleased to be able to generate a significant contribution to the ATJF’. Here is a short ‘how to’ so that you can ask for a pro bono costs order the next time you do any pro bono work:

Pro bono costs orders

  • Pro bono costs orders apply to any pro bono work you do, not just through the Unit.
  • Tell the other party that you can make a pro bono costs order under s 194 of the Legal Services Act 2007 and CPR 46.7.
  • This promotes settlement because the costs cannot be offset against any debt or counterclaim.
  • You can include a pro bono costs order in a settlement agreement.
  • Before a hearing, file and serve a statement of costs at your normal rates.
  • If you win, seek a pro bono costs order.
  • Notify the ATJF by emailing costs@ATJF.org.uk within seven days.

Take a case

Currently there are a number of cases that require counsel for advice or representation at all court levels. Please see the diagrams below for an overview of the available cases by your area of law and Circuit.

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If you are already a panel member, please visit this site to read more about each case.

If you are not yet a panel member and want to join, email our volunteer and administration coordinator, Stacey Lamb, at slamb@barprobono.org.uk.

We always welcome your feedback and you can contact us using the dedicated barrister telephone line or email address: 020 7690 3971 or caseworker@barprobono.org.uk.

£30 Initiative and funding strategic development

Thank you so much to those of you who chose to donate £30 to the Unit during the recent Authorisation to Practise (AtP) renewal period. Not many know that the funding the Unit receives through AtP represents around 50% of our total funding, and therefore a decrease in the number of barristers donating at this time has a significant impact on our work.

Improvements to the way we offer our services and support to volunteers are under way. In line with the work being done digitally by HM Courts & Tribunals Service, this work aims to open access to the Unit‘s service for people in need of legal help as well as streamlining the casework process for our barrister volunteers.

If you wish to support us to continue this strategic work, join the 150 barristers who donate to us regularly. Please email our head of fundraising and communications, Mary Dobson, at mdobson@barprobono.org.uk for details.

Join the London Legal Walk on Monday 22 May

At the time of going to press, the chambers below had all entered a team in this year‘s London Legal Walk and are actively fundraising to support many organisations that provide legal assistance. Get involved and email legalwalk@llst.org.uk to sign up! Do come and say hello to the Bar Pro Bono Unit walking team on the day.

  • 10 King‘s Bench Walk
  • 11 KBW
  • 12 King‘s Bench Walk
  • 12 Old Square
  • 15 New Bridge Street
  • 1 Chancery Lane
  • 1 Crown Office Row
  • 1 Garden Court
  • 1 King‘s Bench Walk
  • 1MCB
  • 1 Pump Court
  • 20 Essex Street
  • 23 Essex Street
  • 2-3 Hind Court
  • 25 Bedford Row
  • 29 Bedford Row
  • 2 Hare Court
  • 2 Temple Gardens
  • 33 Bedford Row
  • 39 Essex Chambers
  • 3 Doctor Johnson‘s Buildings
  • 3 Hare Court
  • 3PB
  • 3 Raymond Buildings
  • 3 Verulam Buildings
  • 4 King‘s Bench Walk
  • 4 Paper Buildings
  • 4 Pump Court
  • 5 Paper Buildings
  • 6 Pump Court
  • 7 BR Chambers
  • 9 Bedford Row
  • 9 Gough Square
  • 9 King‘s Bench Walk
  • Atkin Chambers
  • Blackstone Chambers
  • Brick Court Chambers
  • Carmelite Chambers
  • Chambers of Lawrence Power: 4 KBW
  • Chambers of William Clegg QC
  • Cloisters
  • Coram Chambers
  • Drystone Chambers
  • Erskine Chambers
  • Falcon Chambers
  • Farrar‘s Building
  • Five Paper
  • Fourteen
  • Francis Taylor Building
  • Garden Court Chambers
  • Goldsmith Chambers
  • Hailsham Chambers
  • Hardwicke
  • Invictus Chambers
  • Keating Chambers
  • Lamb Chambers
  • Landmark Chambers
  • Maitland Chambers
  • Matrix Chambers
  • Monckton Chambers
  • New Court Chambers
  • Outer Temple Chambers
  • QEB Hollis Whiteman
  • Quadrant Chambers
  • Radcliffe Chambers
  • Selborne Chambers
  • Serjeants‘ Inn
  • Serle Court
  • South Square Chambers
  • St Philips Chambers London
  • Swan Chambers
  • Tanfield Chambers
  • Temple Garden Chambers
  • The 36 Group
  • XXIV Old Buildings
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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.