Demand for pro bono legal advice has leapt by almost a third in the past year, pro bono ‘brokers’ LawWorks and the Bar Pro Bono Unit have revealed.

But LawWorks warned that the true scale of unmet need has been masked by the ‘desperate state’ of frontline services. The monthly average number of applications to LawWorks for assistance has increased by 29% this year, with calls to its helpline increasing by 69% in the first half of 2013, against the same period in 2012. The Bar Pro Bono Unit reports a 30% increase in referrals for assistance.

Writing in the Gazette’s business blog LawWorks caseworker Lia Moses (pictured) says the increase in demand fell short of ‘the scale we imagined’. She blamed the ‘desperate state’ of the frontline advice sector, which is responsible for the majority of requests for assistance. ‘We rely on the advice sector to raise awareness of our service and refer individuals to us in appropriate cases,’ she added.

Rebecca Wilkie, chief executive of the Bar Pro Bono Unit, said the increased demand for assistance was ‘across the board’, rather than from any one referral source. She noted that one of the firmest referral trends had been references to the unit from MPs.