I write more in sorrow than in anger about your article on pro bono. Congratulations to the firms who do provide pro bono work. But where are the legal aid firms? If you want to know about both, what is needed and what is provided – ask them.
There appears to be no mention or perhaps no awareness of the fact that it is legal aid firms who do the vast majority of pro bono in this country, unnoticed. The gaps in the legal aid system are so great that it is impossible to work in the field without patching those gaps with what we simply see as unpaid work. Equally, the non-eligible clients still come to us and we cannot turn them all away. (Leaving aside the fact that, at typically £68 per hour, all our work is effectively pro bono, compared with City firms at £400 p/h upwards.)
Twice I have had letters in the Gazette making these points and written to the pro bono organisations asking about ‘pro bono week’. I have also suggested that the better or additional use of private firms’ skills might lie in helping legal aid firms – forming supporting partnerships – from offering conveyancing services, IT advice and so on, to sharing bulk-bought materials and subsidising running costs. The response each time? Zero. It is rather disappointing.
David Jockelson, Miles & Partners, London E1