Pro Bono Community (PBC) is a registered charity and social enterprise which seeks to improve access to justice by providing specialist training in legal advice and social welfare law to lawyers, trainees and students and then placing them as volunteers at Law Centres and advice agencies.
Following cuts in legal aid and government funding, Britain is experiencing a legal advice deficit in which hundreds of thousands fewer people are receiving free legal advice and assistance. Those Law Centres and advice agencies that have remained open are overstretched and under-resourced. Pro Bono Community is committed to providing these organisations with well-trained volunteers who can help them to overcome the challenges they face and improve access to justice for people in need.
By working closely with universities and law firms we hope that our training and volunteer placement schemes will serve to embed pro bono culture in the hearts and minds of young lawyers and that many of them will go on to become evangelists for volunteering and pro bono work in their future careers.
PBC was set up with support from The Legal Education Foundation and went live in 2014-15. Since then the charity has run over 100 training programmes involving more than 2,000 attendees from law firms, universities and other organisations including Linklaters, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Herbert Smith Freehills, Simmons & Simmons, Shearman & Sterling, Olswang, Ashurst, Morgan Lewis, Farrer, Hogan Lovells, CMS, City Law School, LSE, Oxford University, University of Law, SOAS, King’s College London, University College London, Manchester Metropolitan University, Oxford Brookes, University of West England, University of Hertfordshire, Greenwich University, BPP, Royal Holloway University, University of Westminster and London South Bank University.
Volunteers trained by PBC have gone on to work at Law Centres and advice agencies across London. The work these volunteers do will depend upon the needs of the agencies at which they are placed but include tasks such as fielding and triaging new clients, signposting or referring clients, providing information and advice on next steps, reception duties such as welcoming clients, arranging appointments and answering calls and interviewing clients. Most advice agencies expect volunteers to commit to placements lasting a minimum of six months although many will go on to extend their placements for much longer periods. We estimate that PBC-trained volunteers have provided free legal support and assistance to well over 50,000 people since the charity was established.