Retired solicitors are being invited to volunteer their services in good causes in the latest initiative by charity the National Pro Bono Centre. The scheme, unveiled as part of Pro Bono Week 2023, is a combined effort by representatives from organisations including Advocate and LawWorks, led by Robert Bourns, National Pro Bono Centre (NPBC) trustee and former Law Society president.

Robert Bourns

Robert Bourns, National Pro Bono Centre trustee

Source: Michael Cross

Drawing on the experience of the NHS during the Covid-19 pandemic, where retired medical professionals provided additional support for public services, this new project will encourage members of the legal profession to provide pro bono support in retirement, extending the capacity of pro bono legal support offered by law firms and barristers.

The centre this week opened a one-stop-shop for information, guidance and opportunities for those looking to volunteer after retirement. Prospective volunteers can choose the organisations best suited to their professional interests and schedules. This advice also includes detailed guidance on the professional certifications required for pro bono practice. Information specific to barristers is available on Advocate and to solicitors on LawWorks. 

Case studies show that lawyers acting pro bono in their retirement make a tangible impact to individuals and groups. Recent examples include:

  • Volunteering one day a week in a London employment law centre, a retired barrister secured £6,000 in compensation and 12 weeks paid holiday for a client whose employer had denied him the right to paid annual leave.
  • A former employment lawyer advised a same-sex couple in their successful claim against their employer and landlord after they were evicted for rejecting his sexual advances. 

Retired solicitor Kate Buchanan, who volunteers at Islington Advice Centre, said: 'I studied for all those years to be a lawyer, and then felt like I didn’t want to stop being a lawyer - I wanted to use my legal skills in some way. You feel like you’re doing something incredibly useful with your skills and really helping people, in some cases in life-changing ways. I think that my daughters are proud of what I do. It’s enormously satisfying.'

Bourns said: 'I welcome the launch of this fantastic new initiative amid an increasing need for pro bono legal support to ensure the most vulnerable in our society have access to justice when they need it. I urge colleagues across the legal profession to explore the option to continue to offer pro bono legal help in their retirement.'

Information on the scheme specific to solicitors is available here


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