The meaning of Pro Bono Week at SHU Law
The term we know as Pro Bono is derived from the Latin term ‘Pro Bono publico’ which in English means ‘for the public good’. Pro Bono work is providing legal advice or representation for free of charge by lawyers and legal professionals, for the interest of the public. This can be to individuals, charities or community groups who cannot afford to pay for legal service.
SHU Law is a not-for-profit teaching law firm which gives the law and criminology students at Sheffield Hallam University the opportunity to have exposure to work and learn in a fully regulated law firm. This allows students to gain valuable skills that can be used in SHU Law, the wider legal sector and beyond.
The 21st annual Pro Bono week takes place between 7- 11 of November 2022. Pro Bono Week promotes and supports the work of lawyers who volunteer their services. It is part of a global celebration of pro bono that takes place every year.
SHU Law has recently won the Niche Law Firm of the Year Award 2022 from the Sheffield & District Law Society. What we love about Pro Bono work is the fact that everyone has the opportunity to have access to justice. The only downside is that it is not possible to help everyone who needs it.
LASPO and its effects on pro bono work?
The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 is an act of parliament that introduced funding cuts to legal aid and narrowed the scope and financial eligibility criteria, with the result that fewer people could access legal advice and representation for problems in areas such as family, employment, and welfare benefits law. Official figures indicate the proportion of litigants with legal representation fell from 60% in 2012 to just 33% in the first quarter of 2017. In the last five years this has not increased.
LASPO’s effect on pro bono work is obvious. The government cut legal aid and now the people with the lowest incomes are suffering and have nowhere to go for legal aid because people conducting legal aid in this country are spread so thin. There are not enough legal workers to support the rising number of people needing legal aid. I see this from the front line when I volunteered for Support Through Court as we had so many clients, we were constantly rushed off our feet and sometimes could not take them all, but Support Through Court was sold to universities because of the government’s cuts to legal aid. This is a prime example of the effects LASPO is having on our legal system. People have to navigate their own way through the legal system which can be a daunting and lonely process to go through by yourself. Pro Bono week is a great way to promote this type of work and to encourage future lawyers like myself to also get involved.
By Ewan Phillips – Second year law student at Sheffield Hallam University