A legal advice charity is to establish an ’honorary counsel’ role as part of efforts to develop further opportunities for in-house lawyers to do pro bono work.
The scheme would involve lawyers becoming ’trusted advisers’ and the ’first port of call’, LawWorks chief executive Martin Barnes told a Law Society in-house division event.
The charity would match charities with volunteer lawyers and the relationship could be reviewed after six months.
’The idea is to facilitate lawyers having a longer-term relationship with the charity,’ Barnes told the Gazette. ’It will enable a volunteer lawyer to gain experience in charities in a different way.’
The scheme would be open to private practice lawyers. But Barnes said the scheme was particularly for in-house lawyers ’if they want to get general counsel experience’.
LawWorks is looking to pilot the honourary counsel scheme in January. Should the pilot be successful, the charity will ’replicate [and] extend it’, he said.
Meanwhile, Caroline Parks, legal counsel for the British Heart Foundation, told the event that in-house lawyers did not need to be charity law experts or make a ’huge’ time commitment to do pro bono work.
Tom Dunn, pro bono director at magic circle firm Clifford Chance, warned in-house lawyers that there were certain regulatory problems they faced in relation to pro bono work, but ’even under the current environment it’s perfectly possible for you to do very interesting, meaningful and impactful pro bono work’.
In-house lawyers are prohibited from doing reserved legal activities such as advocacy, litigation, conveyancing and probate.
But Dunn said giving free, legal advice to people in a clinic context would often be at pre-litigation stage.
In-house legal teams could also pair up with law firms who are able to do pro bono work in reserved legal activities and ‘contribute’ to the work on a pro bono basis for a client.
Dunn said Clifford Chance worked with in-house counsel of 30 of the firm’s ’major’ clients last year on pro bono projects.