Pro bono should be seen as part of a coordinated strategy to boost access to justice, the Law Society has said, revealing the 21 founding signatories of its landmark charter.

Magic circle firms Clifford Chance and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, and the Government Legal Department, are among the ‘early adopters’ of the charter, which was unveiled in November.

Society president Robert Bourns said: 'Solicitors do a huge amount of unsung pro bono work, providing voluntary, free legal services to those who cannot afford them or access legal aid. This ranges from supporting law centres or providing pro bono legal advice to charities, through to smaller firms giving free advice to clients who are unable to pay.

’Pro bono must never be viewed as a substitute for a properly funded legal aid system but rather should be seen as part of a coordinated stratgy promoting access to justice, alongside public legal education and tackling barriers to access such as court fees.’

Founding signatories also include Newcastle upon Tyne commercial firm Muckle.

Muckle senior partner Hugh Welch said: 'Pro bono work is a great way of making a real contribution to the communities in which our people and their families live and work. This is why we are proud to be a pro bono charter founding signatory. Society benefits, the reputation of the legal profession is strengthened, our people value it and the firm is stronger as a result of it.

The founding signatories are: Alison Law Solicitors; Ashurst; Bates Wells Braithwaite Sudbury and Suffolk; Berwin Leighton Paisner; Clifford Chance; Clyde & Co; Dentons; DLA Piper; Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer; Government Legal Department; Gowling WLG; Herbert Smith Freehills; Hogan Lovells; Kingsley Napley; Lincolnshire Co-op; Martin Searle Solicitors; Muckle; Reed Smith; Shoosmiths; Weil, Gotshal & Manges; and the Youth Legal & Resource Centre.