Bar survey - barristers set leading CSR example

27 February 2013

A survey conducted by the Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and Wales, has found nearly half the profession (42.4%), across all practice areas, regularly carry out voluntary legal pro bono work, in addition to paid work. It also found that 36.6% of the Bar regularly volunteer for non-legal charitable organisations.

Such findings show that despite the economic pressures many sections of the Bar are currently facing, the role that barristers play in society has enormous value, and is both socially responsible and publicly useful.

Key findings of the survey include:

  • 42.4% of respondents regularly carry out voluntary legal pro bono work in their local community

  • Over a third of respondents dedicate time to working for charitable organisations

  • Almost a quarter of respondents were found to devote more than one working day per fortnight to voluntary work, and a third give up more than one working day per month, and

  • The overwhelming majority of respondents believe that barristers have a responsibility to lend their skills and knowledge to those who cannot pay for them.

The Bar Council also confirmed, as announced by Immediate Past Chairman, Michael Todd QC, last year, that as part of the Practising Certificate Renewal process, it would be asking every practising barrister to make a £30 opt-out donation to support the work of the Bar Pro Bono Unit, in an effort to secure the vital charity's long term financial sustainability.

Maura McGowan QC,Chairman of the Bar, said:

"The Bar has long demonstrated a strong sense of commitment and duty towards legal pro bono work, but the findings of this survey show an astounding level of dedication at the Bar to those in society who need legal advice and representation, and to ensuring access to justice.

"The private comments which respondents provided reflect the pressure which many barristers are under, but despite those pressures, they still place an enormous value on acting in a socially responsible and publicly useful manner

"It must be unheard of for 42% of a predominantly self-employed profession regularly to give away its primary services, free of charge, to those most in need.

"The Government should take these findings into account when looking at further cuts to fees at the publicly funded Bar. This survey explicitly demonstrates the contribution the Bar makes to the taxpayer and to society."

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact the Bar Council Press Office on 020 7222 2525 or Press@BarCouncil.org.uk.

2. Over 500 barristers responded to the survey.

3. The results of the survey can be found here

4. Further information about the Bar Pro Bono Unit can be found at here.

5. The Bar Council represents barristers in England and Wales. It promotes: 

  • The Bar's high quality specialist advocacy and advisory services

  • Fair access to justice for all

  • The highest standards of ethics, equality and diversity across the profession, and

  • The development of business opportunities for barristers at home and abroad.

The General Council of the Bar is the Approved Regulator of the Bar of England and Wales. It discharges its regulatory functions through the independent Bar Standards Board.