Information for Agencies
Pro Bono Legal Work
Pro bono legal work has always been an integral element of membership of the Faculty of Advocates, as part of its work in providing access to justice and meeting otherwise unmet legal need.
When we refer to pro bono legal work we mean legal advice or representation provided by advocates on a referral by advice agencies, accredited by the Faculty, to individuals and community groups who cannot afford to pay for that advice or representation and where legal aid or other funding is not available.
Legal work is pro bono legal work only if it is free to the applicant, without payment to the advocate (regardless of the outcome) and provided voluntarily by the advocate.
Pro bono legal work is always only an adjunct to, and not a substitute for, a proper system of publicly-funded legal services. The availability of appropriately funded legal advice or representation will require to be considered before an advocate undertakes pro bono legal work. The Faculty and its partner advice agencies are committed to working for the improvement of publicly funded legal advice and representation for appropriate cases.
The Role Of The Agency
The agency will be responsible for making appropriate referrals having regard to the complexity of the case, the number and novelty of the questions raised and the importance of the case to the client.
It is the responsibility of the agency to provide sufficient information to allow the Unit and the advocate to consider the application fully.
The availability of public or appropriate privately funded legal advice or representation should always be considered by the agency before a referral is made.
As with any other professional instruction, the advocate should not deal directly with the applicant, who at all time remains the client of the agency.
When an advocate is asked by the agency to undertake pro bono legal work the agency will be responsible for the preparation of the case for counsel in the same way in which a solicitor would in relation to paid work, including making arrangements for consultations, responding to correspondence etc.
The Role Of The Unit
The Unit will be responsible for the co-ordination of pro bono legal work between the advocate and the agency.
In deciding what is an appropriate case the Unit will have regard to among other things, the legal merits of the case; whether the applicant (or his/her family) can afford legal assistance; whether the services of an advocate are needed; and whether the work involved will take more than three days.
The agency will be informed in writing of the Unit's decision within a reasonable time.
The Unit will make every effort to identify an advocate to offer advice or representation in appropriate cases subject to the following:
The Unit cannot accept any responsibility whatsoever for the choice of counsel or any advice or representation provided by that counsel. Advocates are individuals in private practice.
They provide their services voluntarily for no fee. They are not employed by the Unit. They are responsible for the quality of their advice and/ or any representation which they undertake.
No advocate is bound to accept instructions to carry out pro bono legal work. The services of a particular advocate cannot be requested.
The Unit retains an absolute discretion to refuse any application for representation or advice and excludes any liability in respect of such a refusal.
The Role Of The Advocate
The Faculty expects that pro bono legal work will always be done to a high standard. That means in particular that an advocate is expected to give that work the same priority, attention and care as would apply to paid work and give his/her decision on whether or not to take an instruction for pro bono legal work within a reasonable time
The terms on which the pro bono legal work is undertaken including the circumstances in which the relationship may be terminated will be made clear at the outset.
Pro bono legal work will not be undertaken without appropriate insurance.
An advocate in doubt or difficulty in relation to a piece of pro bono legal work is expected to seek advice from the Unit.
A commitment to the delivery of pro bono legal work is encouraged throughout an advocate's professional life through to and including retirement.
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