November sees Pro Bono Week take place again, this time in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis and set against the profession’s earlier responses to the pandemic and the crises in Afghanistan and Ukraine.

Pro Bono Week aims to encourage and support the profession in their continued commitment to providing free legal help to those in need. It provides a practical opportunity for barristers and chambers staff to learn about the different ways of volunteering. Equally, those running pro bono projects can discuss how their services could be most effective. Importantly, too, is the chance to thank and recognise the efforts of those who generously volunteer their time.

There are lots of ways to take part, whether through in-person, online or hybrid events, or by taking to social media to talk about pro bono. Full details and links to register for events can be found at 

To highlight just a few examples which may interest readers of Counsel magazine:

  • In the run-up to the Week, Advocate will host the Bar Pro Bono Awards on 2 November.
  • The launch event on the evening of Monday 7 November will see online presentations on the cost-of-living crisis and how pro bono can respond.
  • Chambers are encouraged to take part in the Great Legal Bake during the week, to raise funds for local advice charities.
  • Pro Bono Connect is hosting a breakfast event on 10 November at Arnold & Porter to discuss the benefits of pro bono collaboration.
  • The evening of 15 November will see a panel led by Lady Hale reconvene to discuss the current challenges to the rule of law.
  • Finally, a roundtable will take place in Newcastle on the evening of 16 November to discuss pro bono in the North East of England.

Three steps you can take

Pro Bono Week is also a chance to take practical steps:

  • First, Pro Bono Week is a great time to sign up to volunteer. Join the panel at the Bar’s pro bono charity Advocate, or volunteer on a scheme for as CLIPS or ELIPS. If you want advice on volunteering ask your pro bono champion or your Circuit’s pro bono officer. You can also obtain a mentor to help you on a pro bono case.
  • Second, arrange an internal seminar at your chambers to explain to colleagues the benefits of pro bono and the practicalities of volunteering (see Advocate’s useful seminar guide at Volunteering helps those in need, which itself feels good, but it undoubtedly also benefits the barrister, whether by offering additional advocacy experience, or a chance to develop a new specialism, while also enhancing KC and judicial applications, and legal directory submissions. It can also lead to new professional relationships by volunteering with a solicitor, such as through Pro Bono Connect.
  • Third, Pro Bono Week is a chance to use social media to showcase barrister’s or chambers’ wider involvement in pro bono. A number of law firms now use Pro Bono Week to highlight their commitment to providing free legal help, and chambers are increasingly following suit.

Whether or not you are able to get involved in Pro Bono Week, speaking as the Chair of the organising committee which encompasses organisations from across the sector, I know each of the pro bono projects would wish to express their deep gratitude to barristers that are able to volunteer their time during their busy practices.