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Legal Services: Pro Bono Work

Volume 691: debated on Thursday 19 April 2007

The Department for Constitutional Affairs has published a consultation paper, Cost Recovery in Pro Bono Cases, on proposals for secondary legislation to implement the provisions provided for by Clause 185 of the Legal Services Bill on payments in respect of representation provided pro bono. The consultation paper was published on 16 April 2007 and will run for 12 weeks. The closing date is 9 July 2007.

The Legal Services Bill [HL], published in November 2006, is before Parliament. Clause 185 (in Part 8—“Miscellaneous provisions about lawyers etc”) is designed to amend civil costs law to enable costs to be recovered in cases where legal representation was provided pro bono.

Pro bono work provides a valuable adjunct to the other forms of legal funding. This proposal will enable costs to be recovered in civil pro bono cases and will help level what has up to now been an uneven costs playing field. Cost orders will be made at the discretion of the courts and when made will be directed to a prescribed charity that will administer and distribute the moneys to provide additional legal help and advice for those not otherwise able to afford it.

This initiative is supported by the Attorney-General's Pro Bono Co-ordinating Committee. The committee was established in 2001 to promote and encourage the ethos of pro bono in the legal professions. Its members include representatives of the Bar, the Law Society, ILEX, the major pro bono organisations (including LawWorks and the Free Representational Unit) and the not-for-profit sector (including Citizens Advice, the Law Centres Federation and AdviceUK).