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Lady Chief Justice endorses pro bono recognition list for legal professionals in England & Wales

Lady Chief Justice endorses pro bono recognition list for legal professionals in England & Wales


To celebrate and honour the pro bono contributions of legal professionals across England and Wales, the Attorney General’s Pro Bono Committee has introduced the inaugural Pro Bono Recognition List

This initiative aims to acknowledge solicitors and barristers who have dedicated 25 or more hours of their time to provide free legal assistance to those in need throughout the previous calendar year.

Supported by its patron, The Lady Chief Justice of England & Wales, Baroness Sue Carr of Walton-on-the-Hill, the Recognition List seeks to shine a spotlight on the invaluable efforts of individual lawyers in firms and organisations of all sizes who actively engage in pro bono work. Private practice and in-house lawyers are encouraged to submit their names for consideration before the deadline on May 24, 2024.

The Pro Bono Recognition List is a collaborative effort, backed by the Law Society, Bar Council, and major pro bono legal organisations, among others. It represents a shared commitment to recognising and promoting pro bono work as an essential component of the legal profession's dedication to fairness and equality.

Commenting on the launch of the initiative, The Lady Chief Justice underscored the longstanding tradition of legal professionals volunteering their time to provide crucial legal assistance to individuals and charities who otherwise cannot afford it. She emphasised the importance of recognising and honouring these lawyers for their contributions to their communities.

The initiative received widespread support from legal bodies, with Nick Emmerson, President of the Law Society, emphasising the profound impact of pro bono work in bridging the gap between legal needs and representation. Similarly, Sam Townend KC, Chair of the Bar Council, highlighted the critical role of pro bono work in ensuring access to justice for vulnerable individuals.

Toby Brown, Chair of the Steering Group for the Attorney General’s Committee, emphasised the cross-sector collaboration behind the initiative, reflecting a shared commitment to recognising lawyers of all backgrounds for their pro bono dedication.

The Pro Bono Recognition List also showcases case studies illustrating the transformative impact of pro bono legal support:

Case Study - Dignity and closure for bereaved families Hudgell Solicitors recently represented the family of Nicola Bulley at the inquest into her death. Hudgells and Sophie Cartwright KC, of Deans Court Chambers, represented the family on a pro bono basis, with help from Advocate. The firm’s priorities were to ensure the family was fully prepared for the inquest process and understood what it would involve, preserving the family’s dignity throughout the hearing. Given the family was vulnerable to the significant media interest and social media speculation, they secured closure for the family and an end to public speculation around the circumstances of Nicola’s death. The senior coroner praised Hudgell solicitors and Deans Court Chambers for acting for the family on a pro bono basis because “they believed this was the right thing to do”.

Case Study - In-house expertise to level up learning resources Social learning charity Speak Street offers free English classes to refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. To support its community beyond the classroom, the charity wanted to publish a set of handbooks. However, when staff realised some of the material belonged to third parties, they feared legal complications. In-house lawyers at Entain reviewed the handbooks, highlighting information belonging to the third parties, and then drafted appropriate copyright assignments. “We hope the handbooks will continue to boost learners’ confidence and extend the charities’ outreach to the community of non-English speakers in the UK” said James Thomson, senior legal counsel and co-chair of the pro bono network at Entain.

Case Study - Keeping the lights on at a local charity In 2023, a Northumberland charity found itself in a dispute with an energy broker claiming a fee for an alleged breach of contract. As a small charity with a tight budget, staff were faced with the impossible decision of paying the disputed amount or financing legal support – neither of which they could afford. Local firm Muckle LLP stepped in after a referral from the local Community Foundation. The Newcastle-based firm is committed to providing exceptional social support to the communities where its staff live and work. The firm robustly defended the unsubstantiated claim, which was dropped, so the charity can continue its mission in the community. “Muckle’s intervention came as a great relief.” explained a charity spokesperson. “It wasn’t just what Muckle achieved for us, but the team’s friendly, approachable, sympathetic and professional way they worked with us.”

In conclusion, the launch of the Pro Bono Recognition List signifies a significant step forward in acknowledging and celebrating the pro bono contributions of legal professionals in England and Wales. By recognising their dedication and commitment to serving those in need, the legal community reaffirms its commitment to upholding principles of justice, fairness, and equality for all.