The Access to Justice Foundation will today launch a national campaign encouraging law firms to release unclaimed money from their client accounts to help support free legal assistance in their local community.

The charity’s ‘It's Not Just Peanuts’ campaign is targeting amounts of less than £50 that have been unclaimed by clients and remain in solicitor’s accounts.

It takes advantage of a 2008 rule change, which allows firms to donate unclaimed sums of less than £50 to charity without approval from the Solicitor’s Regulation Authority, although the charity hopes that sums over £50 will also be donated.

Foundation chair Lord Peter Goldsmith QC, a former attorney general, said: ‘Although the individual funds generated may seem small, collectively they will represent a significant contribution towards the work of the foundation to support organisations that provide free legal help, vital at this time of government funding cuts.

‘We need the support of as many firms as possible and are very grateful for their time and effort to unlock these funds for the voluntary legal sector.’

Yasmin Waljee, international pro bono manager at City firm Hogan Lovells, which hosted the launch of the campaign yesterday, said: ‘In the age of austerity there will no doubt be calls for private practices to do more pro bono. However, while pro bono helps plug a vital gap it is not a substitute for a comprehensive legal aid service.

‘This campaign will help the Access to Justice Foundation provide extra support for legal advice charities so their crucial work can continue, even in these very difficult times.’

The foundation was set up in 2008 by the Law Society and other legal regulators. It provides grant funding to support pro bono and advice agencies.