The rise in ‘under-employed’ lawyers has meant a surge in pro bono work being done, despite fears it would be receding because of the economic downturn, the Law Society has claimed.
The Society said the news was interesting because a survey among junior lawyers earlier this year revealed fears that pro bono work would suffer in the recession.
Of 213 junior lawyers who took part in an online poll earlier in the year, 58 per cent said they believed pro bono work carried out by solicitors would suffer during the recession.
But overwhelming evidence has shown that lawyers are responding to the need of the public as the grip of the recession remains firm. The Law Society Gazette, the trade magazine for solicitors in England and Wales, has monitored the trend and reported on the surge in pro bono work provided by lawyers.
The Gazette claimed:
nThe increase stems from a combination of a greater need for pro bono work and the fact that some solicitors are ‘under-employed’; and
nIt is clear that the need for pro bono help has never been as severe as at the moment. Law firms are responding to that need and choosing their priorities.
Law Society chief executive Desmond Hudson said 2009 had been the ‘year of pro bono’ for solicitors who had stepped in to meet the public needs.
The LawWorks charity, which links law firms with charitable projects, has reported an increase in membership despite the recession.
LawWorks has already worked with 106 member firms this year, almost the same number that participated throughout the whole of last year. It reported a 43 per cent rise in the amount of individual casework advice provided in the first half of 2009, compared to the same period in 2008. Its email advice service saw a 50 per cent rise, while there was a 22 per cent increase in community groups casework and a 10 per cent rise in advice at clinics.
LawWorks chief executive Rebecca Hilsenrath said: “The commitment to pro bono work shown by our member firms is clearly demonstrated by their continued membership of this charity. Each year law firms provide thousands of hours of free legal services providing advice and assistance through advice clinics and casework. The cost of these services would run into millions but the value to those receiving the help is immeasurable.”
Law Society junior lawyer division executive member Kevin Poulter added: “Pro bono work not only has the ultimate benefit of providing essential legal support to the community, it also gives junior solicitors an added edge to their experience.
“For lawyers out of work or having training contracts deferred pro bono is a good way to keep their legal skills and knowledge polished.”