In her article ‘Should pro bono be compulsory?’, Lia Moses refers to the New York State Bar requirement for all lawyers to carry out 50 hours of pro bono work before qualifying. Maybe even qualified solicitors should do 50 hours per annum? She urges us to fill in the questionnaire.
In legal aid it is such a different world: we all do at least 10 hours pro bono work each month. Our legal aid system is so full of holes and traps that about 10% of our case work is never paid for. The administration involved in getting legal aid, arguing over every extension you need and getting prior authority for experts’ fees, and then tortuous hassles on claiming, mean about 30% of our time is non-fee-earning.
Hence legal aid solicitors frequently earn less than £35k or £40k a year for a working week which is just as long as for those poor overworked folk in the big City firms.
If the big firms really want to help, they might be better advised to: engage with and support their local legal aid firms; exchange work placements; and provide help such as lease negotiating, employment advice, IT and bulk purchasing power. I suggested this in a letter to the Gazette a few years ago. The response was nil – at that time. Is the time ripe now perhaps?
David Jockelson, Miles & Partners, London E1