Why pro bono? Experiences & Case Studies

Pro bono at the Bar in action

Members of the Bar Pro Bono Committee explain why they do pro bono and share their experiences. We want to hear more stories from the Bar and those the Bar have helped on a pro bono basis. Email your pro bono stories to Press@BarCouncil.org.uk.


Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC, Chairman of the Bar (2016) and co-chair of the Bar Pro Bono Committee

I first became in involved in pro bono activity at Bar School in 1991/92 as a Free Representation Unit representative for employment tribunal cases. Since then, I have become a panel member of, and fundraiser for, the Bar Pro Bono Unit. Beyond the tradition pro bono work of the Bar - providing legal advice and advocacy on a pro bono basis - I have made a wider pro bono commitment to the profession as chair of  the Technology & Construction Bar Association (2010-2013); Chair of the Bar Council's International Committee (2011-2014) during which the Rule of Law Panel was established. In addition, I am a Governor of Ryde School with Upper Chine.  


Alison Padfield, Barrister at 4 New Square and co-chair of the Bar Pro Bono Committee

I co-founded and chair the South Eastern Circuit's Access to Justice Working Group. 

I prosecute disciplinary cases for the Bar Standards Board on a pro bono basis (and would defend pro bono if asked) and am also a member of the Bar Pro Bono Unit. 


Dermot Keating, 25 Bedford Row

I come into regular contact with pro bono work through my role as a Tribunal judge (Social Entitlement Chamber) where most appellants are unrepresented. I also occasionally take on Bar Pro Bono Unit cases and I also sit on the Access to Justice Committee South Eastern Circuit. 


John Nicholson, Kenworthy's Chambers

I am involved in pro bono work for several different schemes - the Asylum Support Appeals Project in Croydon, pro bono initiatives in the Civil Justice Centre in Manchester, Bail for Immigration Detainees - and increasingly for individuals, as legal aid has taken "immigration" work out of scope. I am also Chair of the newly established Greater Manchester Law Centre, with premises in inner city Manchester. The Centre offers advice and representation services (welfare rights advisers and law students), pro bono sessional solicitor services (including community care, mental health, disability, prison, employment) and has funding to appoint a Supervising Solicitor at the start of 2017. 


Lucinda Orr, Enyo Law LLP

I am a mentor for the Social Mobility Foundation charity for sixth form students aspiring for a career in the law. I also undertake pro bono cases on ad hoc basis for Law Works charity (mainly judicial review). Previously, I volunteered twice a month for Citizen's Advice at the Royal Courts of Justice, and formerly volunteered for the Personal Support Unit at the RCJ and First Avenue House, supporting litigants in person at court.  


Samantha Singer, Queen Elizabeth Building

I have been involved in piloting and establishing a precursor to the Central Family Court's duty barrister pro bono scheme. My pro bono work began with a Free Representation Unit (Employment Tribunal) trial over a decade ago. Since then I have undertaken extensive family law pro bono work including via the Bar Pro Bono Unit, the Central Family Court's (various) schemes and more informally when appropriate cases present in my practice. I am committed to promoting and furthering the significant value of the Bar's pro bono work and its contribution to the justice system. I am also an elected member of the Family Law Bar Association. 


Paula Sofowora, Senior Legal Counsel, Zurich

I joined Zurich as an employed barrister in 1997 and enjoy my role as Senior Legal Counsel because of the variety - I never know what I will be doing from one day to the next.  I specialise in a wide range of insurance disputes, claims and underwriting matters including policy wordings and coverage disputes, complaints, building guarantee claims, HSE investigations arising out of statutory engineering inspections, data security and financial crime. 

I find my work to be both interesting and stimulating but by far, what I enjoy most about working for Zurich, is the opportunity to give back to the community.  I am the Programme Coordinator for Zurich UK's Pro Bono/ Skill share programme supporting charities in partnership with Zurich Community Trust which I established in 2014, the founder and current Chair of Zurich UK's Cultural Awareness Network, which I established in 2015 and for the last 15 years have coordinated a reading scheme at Harry Gosling Primary school in Tower Hamlets. I am also an original member of the London committee of Zurich Cares. 


Sam Roake, Charter Chambers

I am a criminal barrister and undertake some criminal cases through the Bar Pro Bono Unit. I have also worked pro bono through FRU, StreetLaw, and at the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal. I am a member of the South Eastern Circuit's Access to Justice Working Group and the Young Barristers' Committee of the Bar Council. 


Toby Brown, Barrister at South Square

I have volunteered with CLIPS and Court 37 schemes, and have advised charities pro bono. I am also a trustee of the Access to Justice Foundation and have assisted in the creation of pro bono charities such as the National Pro Bono Centre and initiatives such as the CJC Working Party on LIPS. In addition, I once spent two weeks volunteering as a caseworker at the Bar Pro Bono Unit. I am a member of the National Pro Bono Week Organising Committee and the Attorney General's Domestic Pro Bono Coordinating Committee and have been involved in some international initiatives, such as the Commonwealth Pro Bono Toolkit, and the African Prisons Project (an NGO that works in prisons in East Africa). 


Sarah Phillimore, St John's Chambers

I am on call to provide email advice and signpost information via a Bradford-on-Avon 'Hub' (near where I live) on one occasion this led me to representing a father in court as pro bono direct access counsel. For the past two years I have also been running the Child Protection Resource which provides information/signposting and general advice. I am also trustee and founder member of The Transparency Project which aims to promote general understanding of the family courts. I aim to do at least 10 hours per year for the Bar Pro Bono Unit and recently underwent their reviewer training. I am one of the organisers of the Family Court Information site and am one of the organisers of the Bristol CJC Duty Lawyer Scheme which started in November 2015.

I am also involved in the Bristol Pro Bono Network which was set up at the end of 2015 which aims to identify local pro bono providers and how best to use the energies of individuals who want to help. For me, the advantages of pro bono work are obvious, both selfishly and altruistically - it has exposed me to work I would not ordinarily be instructed to do and clients are very appreciative. For example, last year I represented a mother seeking permission to relocate to South Africa who was living in a refuge for nine months with 3 small children; it is very hard to see how she could have done this on her own. I was successful in getting permission for her to relocate.

I also represented a family member in Court of Protection proceedings; the level of acrimony between family members had been heightened by poor management/intervention by the LA and again, it was difficult for me to see how things could possibly have moved on without representation for the family member who simply could not have coped on her own.