Pro bono cannot replace legal aid.
As all the main parties seemingly collude in junking the post-war settlement on access to justice, the Gazette salutes the tens of thousands of practising solicitors helping in some small way to compensate.
The value of pro bono work has soared by over £70m in the last year alone, yet more evidence of how lawyers are rising to the challenge of helping vulnerable people abandoned by Westminster.
Melodramatic? Hardly. Not with last year’s cuts denying legal representation to over 1,000 people a week who would previously have received legal aid.
How often do our bailed-out bankers, or accountants – or journalists, for that matter – work for nothing? So take a bow.
Yet the generosity of lawyers is troubling too. Is there a tipping point where providing your services for free offers austerity-fetishists in government an easy way out? Do we risk enabling government to reduce its costs and responsibilities by cynically exploiting lawyers’ goodwill and altruism?
Pro bono work must never be regarded as a substitute for a properly functioning legal welfare system, however politically unfashionable that argument may be in the present climate. The representative bodies must – and will – continue to hammer home that message.