The 14th annual National Pro Bono Week begins today and will run until the end of the week. Activities are planned throughout the week and across the country, to celebrate the wide range of services available and the impact of pro bono work which has historically been an integral part of the legal profession. Sponsored by the Law Society, Bar Council and
Chartered Institute of Legal Executives activities include breakfast meetings, panel discussions, open houses for pro bono legal centres, as well as The Great Legal Quiz which will help to raise money for local free legal advice.
GLD lawyers have long played a role in pro bono work. Employment lawyer Clare McGann started volunteering at the Waterloo Legal Advice Service while she was still a trainee.
I started volunteering over six years ago as a trainee, which was fantastic as it meant that I was able to get
some hands-on experience. They were so supportive and assign all trainees with a supervisor, which meant I was constantly learning and expanding my legal knowledge.
Waterloo Legal Advice Service runs an advice surgery every Thursday evening, and sees between 60 to 100 people each week. Cases range from employment cases, to housing disputes and family law cases, as well as a range of other legal disputes. Whatever the nature of the case, all those seeking legal advice have one thing in common – they can’t afford to pay for it, so quite often the centre is literally their lifeline to getting justice for their cases
Clare says the voluntary work she does helps her to see the benefits of her profession:
Pro bono work is so empowering, and just helps you realise how your legal training can make such a practical difference in people’s lives. It is so fulfilling to be able to help people, whether it’s the mother who just wants a decent house to live in for her children, or the employee who has worked long gruelling hours, and dismissed unfairly. It’s fantastic knowing that you have helped and made a difference. It’s just all so worthwhile – whoever can volunteer should do it. If anything it makes you a better lawyer.
A new recruit to pro bono work is employment lawyer Rizwan Elahi:
I’ve been helping out at the Waterloo Legal Advice Service since May this year. I currently volunteer 3 Thursdays a month and alongside other lawyers from the private, public and voluntary sectors, deal with queries in relation to a whole range of legal issues but predominantly consumer, housing, family and employment law. Pro bono work is something I’ve done in the past and wanted to do again. Although it may sound clichéd, I do it because I think it’s really important that I help out people who just simply can’t afford legal advice.