Why are you so passionate about pro bono legal work?
I think it is crucial as a practitioner to be able to recognise how valuable your skills are and how your assistance can change the course of a person’s life. There are so many vulnerable people who are disadvantaged in various ways and who would struggle to achieve equal and fair representation if it were not for lawyers willing to assist.
What are the main challenges faced by lawyers taking on pro bono referrals?
Pro bono matters are no less demanding or time-consuming than paying matters, and when you are taking on a pro bono matter you are committing to delivering the same quality of representation as you would for any paying client. I believe a major challenge is being aware of your personal capacity to take something on – both emotionally and financially. Pro bono referrals also can come when the client is already well into a process or needs urgent action, meaning you need to be able to act fast.
Depending on the nature of the referral, lawyers may find it difficult to find a barrister who is also willing to assist on a pro bono basis. That said, my experience so far has been very positive in this respect and taking on pro bono referrals has enabled me to work directly with senior counsel on a number of matters.
What message do you have for lawyers who are considering taking on a pro bono referral?
I encourage lawyers to consider taking on pro bono referrals. The work is often interesting, challenging and provides excellent opportunities for learning.
At the same time, it is important to be realistic about your capacity, your client’s chance of success and what scope of assistance you are willing to provide from the outset. There is no point taking on a pro bono matter if you cannot (or do not want to) devote the time or energy to it – you will not be doing yourself or your client any favours.