Representative bodies and the government have praised lawyers who do pro bono work in a year marred by devastating events that have driven solicitors to help in any way they can.

Today marks the start of National Pro Bono Week, now in its 16th year. This year, professional bodies including the Law Society and charities are drawing attention to the link between pro bono advice and health.

However, Law Society president Joe Egan said this year 'the public service ethos of so many of our profession has been particularly evident as they have stepped in to volunteer their services to victims of terror attacks and the devastating fire in Grenfell Tower'.

Following the Grenfell Tower fire in west London, lawyers and specialist housing advisers from homelessness charity Shelter and the Housing Law Practitioners Association worked with North Kensington Law Centre to run free daily drop-in advice clinics.

A pro bono panel of solicitor firms, convened by the Law Society, charity LawWorks and the City of London Law Society, was established following the terrorist attack in London Bridge in June. This was extended to people affected by the attack outside the Muslim Welfare House mosque and community centre in London's Finsbury Park. 

Manchester Law Society received an 'overwhelming' response to its plea for pro bono advice soon after the attack on Manchester Arena in May.

As part of events to mark National Pro Bono Week, legal professionals, academics, students and the judiciary will discuss employment law, civil rights, climate change, working with non-governmental organisations, promoting the rule of law overseas, and the role of pro bono in health and public legal education.

Egan said: 'I am so proud of the extent of the pro bono legal advice offered by lawyers every year. This advice gives not only life-changing practical help, but can also relieve mental and physical distress.'

Over the summer, Robert Buckland, solicitor general, chaired a newly established pro bono panel to promote and coordinate lawyers' voluntary efforts.

Attorney general Jeremy Wright QC today thanked everyone who donates their time and expertise 'in doing this challenging but rewarding work'. He said: 'Pro bono week is an important opportunity for the legal community to highlight its ongoing commitment to offering legal advice, and to help increase people's access to justice.'

Andrew Langdon QC, Bar Council chair, said legal professionals who do pro bono work, often in 'stressful and difficult' circumstances and on top of already demanding workloads, 'are deserving of nothing but our praise'.

Millicent Grant, president of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, said pro bono 'is not about plugging gaps where legal aid is unavailable to those who need it [and] it never should be. Instead our members do it because it's the right thing to do'.