Research on the pro bono work of solicitors reveals that the majority of pro bono work is undertaken within private practice at a senior level.
The findings have been published by the Law Society to mark National Pro Bono Week, a nationwide campaign to celebrate the range and impact of free (pro bono) services provided by lawyers, often in collaboration with other professionals.
A series of questions about pro bono work were placed in the latest Law Society member survey. The survey results reveal that 40% of all solicitors with practising certificates had conducted an average of 47 hours in the twelve months prior to the survey and that the overwhelming majority of solicitors engaged in pro bono work (92%) are in private practice.
The results also show that 55% of Practising Certificate holders had conducted pro bono work at some point in their legal career.
This year, for the first time, pro bono was defined in accordance with the pro bono protocol; the best practice guidelines for the conduct of pro bono work. Due to the narrower definition figures from previous surveys are not comparable and it is not possible to say whether volumes of pro bono work have increased or decreased.
Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, Law Society President, said: “It is clear that many solicitors are highly committed to providing pro bono services. However, the survey results also show that the majority of pro bono work is undertaken by senior practitioners who, as a result of their status, have more autonomy to undertake un-paid work.
“We are very aware that trainee solicitors are actively engaged in pro bono work and we intend to conduct further research into their involvement. We would encourage firms who support pro bono to adopt policies to recognise it, for instance by allowing a proportion of pro bono to be included in trainees’ billable hours.
“In-house solicitors should also be given support where they wish to carry out pro bono work. There are good reasons for lower rates of participation in pro bono by the employed sector, such as the absence of professional indemnity and access to pro bono opportunities. LawWorks, a charity that brokers free legal help by solicitors for individuals and community groups, can offer helpful advice in this area.”