News article published on: 20th June 2012
Paven Basuita writes (email@example.com): The start of this year’s National Pro Bono week was marked with a “question time” style debate about Pro Bono at the Law Society on Monday.
The debate was particularly topical this year as the panel grappled with the issue of how, and whether, Pro Bono can plug the gap which will be left when the Legal Aid reforms come into force in spring 2013. These reforms will mean that Legal Aid will not be available for large areas of work including divorce, financial relief, contact and residence disputes, except in a small minority of cases. The debate was attended by a broad range of community groups, charities and lawyers involved in providing vital Pro Bono work in their communities. There seemed to be a consensus that whilst there is a lot of valuable work which can be done through, for example, free representation in court, law clinics, support for litigants in person and online resources, it is difficult to see how this can replace the detailed, specialist advice which has so far been provided by Legal Aid practitioners. One of the suggestions proposed was an increase in the use of technology to provide assistance, advice and even dispute resolution to try and keep conflicts away from the court. It was agreed that early intervention and better public legal education is key in helping avoid legal issues down the line. The surprise appearance of Chris Grayling at the end of the debate was met with a lukewarm response by those practitioners who feel that Pro Bono effectively lets the government off the hook in relation to its responsibility to ensure access to justice for all.
Overall, the debate provided plenty of food for thought and it was encouraging to see the level of commitment across the legal profession and voluntary sector. How and whether a co-ordinated, comprehensive service can be delivered remains to be seen.
Osbornes have been committed to supporting Camden Community Law Centre for many years and each week volunteer solicitors from the firm provide legal advice for free to people who cannot easily obtain assistance elsewhere. Further information about Camden Community Law Centre, including details of how to donate can be found here: www.cclc.org.uk/