Qualified solicitors and barristers made up more than three-quarters of a surge in volunteer lawyers last year, according to pro bono charity LawWorks’ latest annual report.
Between April 2014 and March 2015, 2,127 lawyers participated in LawWorks clinics, compared with 971 the previous year.
Solicitors and barristers accounted for 1,658 volunteers; 469 were trainees and pupils.
LawWorks chief executive Martin Barnes said in the report, published yesterday, that the profile of pro bono ‘has rarely been higher’ and the contribution of the legal profession ‘possibly never greater’.
Law school clinics accounted for nearly a third (32%) of the network’s 219 clinics, dealing with more than 11,000 enquiries.
Barnes said the volunteering of law students and law schools’ support deserved ‘particular’ recognition, for ‘making a difference to local communities, but also providing valuable experience and learning for the lawyers tomorrow, and potentially a commitment to pro bono which can last a lifetime’.
Last month Queen Mary Legal Advice Centre in London had to temporarily close its enquiry system for the first time in nine years due to a surge in demand against a backdrop of legal aid cuts.
Barnes emphasised the ‘profound’ contribution pro bono made to enable access to justice, but warned that it should not be seen as an alternative to legal aid.
‘Pro bono advice works most effectively when it complements and supports wider legal and advice provision – and is tailored to best meet need,’ he said.