Pro Bono Community exists to fill a gap in the training market identified by its trustees for a standardised programme that provides training to lawyers, trainees and law students before placing them as volunteers with Law Centres and advice agencies.
In a financial climate which has seen Law Centres and advice agencies closing down and hundreds of thousands fewer people receiving legal advice and assistance, Pro Bono Community has been set up to increase the amount and quality of advice from well-trained and highly-motivated volunteers, one of the few practical ways of addressing the legal advice deficit created by the removal of government funding.
It is estimated that cuts of £350m in the legal aid budget have led to half a million fewer cases of legal assistance being handled by Law Centres and advice agencies across the United Kingdom every year including 140,000 fewer welfare benefits cases, 110,000 fewer debt cases, 50,000 fewer housing cases and 30,000 fewer employment cases.
Law Centres urgently need well-trained and highly-motivated volunteers to help meet the huge and growing gap between the demand for free legal advice and the capacity of Law Centres and advice agencies to deliver it. By providing these organisations with high-quality, committed and incentivised volunteers, Pro Bono Community’s training scheme will serve to free up hard-pressed agency staff to focus on the provision of core services.
The course covers both interpersonal and practical skills as well as specific areas of law. This is because agencies have emphasized the need for volunteers who are equipped to interact with clients, explore their problems, assess the urgency of their issues and identify the next steps to be taken.