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In the Unit’s first 6 years more than 1,350 barristers have volunteered their services, over 4,000 applications have been received and more than 1,500 individuals have been assisted.

This Web site, generously created for the Unit free of charge by Context Limited, can tell you:

Lord Goldsmith QC

For barristers and solicitors volunteering, the member’s area provides news and information about the Unit.

“Since I set up the Unit six years ago it has gone from strength to strength. This serves as a tribute to its dedicated members. I am honoured to remain as the Unit’s President. Pro bono work is an asset to any legal career. It also boosts the reputation of the profession. Most importantly, it gives access to legal assistance to those who need but cannot afford to pay for it. Pro bono work forms a central plank of Government efforts to tackle social exclusion. I look forward to working closely with the Unit to continue to promote it.”

Lord Goldsmith QC,
Attorney General and President of the Bar Pro Bono Unit

“Since its establishment the Bar Pro Bono Unit has made an increasingly important contribution to the delivery of justice. The public, the profession and the courts have good reason to be grateful to the Unit for what it is achieving. The public, because of the numbers who have benefited from advice and representation which they sorely need. The profession, because the work of the Unit has increased the profession’s standing in the eyes of the judiciary and the public. The courts, because, with the help of the representation arranged by the Unit, a just outcome was assured in cases where this might not otherwise have happened. The Unit deserves our support.”

Lord Woolf,
Lord Chief Justice and Chairman of the Unit's Advisory Board

pro bono publico describes work done for the public good. For the legal profession, pro bono refers to the provision of free legal services

Applicants must complete the Unit’s Application Form in full and must satisfy the criteria for acceptance. View the Unit’s information leaflet.

The applicant must ensure that there is sufficient information with the application for the case to be considered properly. For example, it is essential to provide photocopies of all relevant documents before the court, such as pleadings, statements, judgments/decisions as well as advice received from barristers and/or solicitors.

Original documents and large quantites of documents should not be sent, as documents cannot be returned.

If a case is urgent, this should be highlighted. However, the Unit will not normally be able to provide representation without at least 14 days’ notice of any Court hearing or other deadline, and there is no guarantee that the Unit can respond to an urgent request.

Significant developments – such as a change of hearing date – after an application has been submitted but before a decision has been notified, should be reported to the Unit.

 Procedures    Criteria    Cases    Panel

Factors which will normally decide whether the Unit can help are:

  • Does the case have legal merit and deserve pro bono assistance?

  • Is the applicant financially ineligible for public funding (Legal Aid) and unable to pay for the assistance they require and have no other form of help with legal expenses (e.g. from insurance or a trade union)?

  • Are the services of an experienced barrister needed?

  • Is the work (preparation, advice and representation) capable of completion within three working days? Assistance can be given beyond that time limit in exceptional cases.

  • Is there a more suitable alternative source of help?

    • For example, the Free Representation Units in London, the North West, the South West and Wales, which provide representation for tribunals.
  • Where the applicant is a litigant in person, an assessment will be made as to whether a solicitor is also required to assist with the case.
    • Wherever possible the applicant should make an application with the assistance of a solicitor or other advice agency who is willing to remain involved in the case. In exceptional cases the Unit may be able to find a pro bono solicitor to work alongside and support the barrister volunteer.

    Cases accepted for assistance cover the whole range of law. Barristers have helped in cases in the Court of Appeal, the High Court, the County Courts, the Coroners’ Courts, the Employment Appeal Tribunal, many Tribunals and Public Inquiries – as well as advising on appeals to the House of Lords.

    In 2000 and 2001, the Unit received over 1700 requests for help and assisted in over 620 cases. A small selection of the cases supported by the Unit around England and Wales are outlined here.

    Work in the Court of Appeal

    • A QC and Junior Counsel and solicitors acted for the appellants in a boundary dispute case where a complaint of bias on the part of the Judge in the County Court was considered. The appeal was eventually dismissed but it raised important questions as to the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeal and to the law relating to bias. Legal representation was essential in order that the case be fairly heard. (Taylor v Lawrence, The Times 8th February 2002)

    • A QC and Junior Counsel appeared on behalf of the RCJ Advice Bureau which had intervened in a case provoked by the activity of an unqualified "representative" who had been offering his services to clients of the Bureau. The Judgment of the Court laid down clear rules relating to the conduct of "McKenzie Friends" and other unqualified advisors. (Paragon Finance plc v Noueiri, [2001] 1 WLR 2357)

The Unit retains an absolute discretion to refuse any application for representation or advice and exclude any liability in respect of such a refusal.

For full details on criteria, procedure and conditions of acceptance of cases, please see Application Procedure.

                                 BAR PRO BONO UNIT

The Bar Pro Bono Unit and Bar in the Community can be contacted during office hours at:

Address: Bar Pro Bono Unit, The National Pro Bono Centre, 48 Chancery Lane, London WC2A 1JF 

DX: 188 London Chancery Lane 

Enquiry Line: 0207 092 3960

Fax: 020 7831 9733


Director: Alice Sheldon
Caseworkers: Fiona Ball and Sufiya Patel
Bar in the Community Administrator: Veronica Carter

All applications for assistance must be made in writing on the Unit’s
application form.

Please note: You will require Adobe Acrobat in order to read the application form.
Adobe Acrobat is available free of charge – click the icon to download the latest version.

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The Bar Pro Bono Unit is a Registered Charity No. 1057620 and a company limited by guarantee in England No. 3237309

Bar in the Community is a Registered Charity No. 1089907 and a company limited by guarantee in England No. 4211688

Registered Office: The General Council of the Bar, 3 Bedford Row, London WC1R 4DB
President: Lord Goldsmith QC   Chair: Nicholas Underhill QC