Scheme aims to provide free legal services to those in need

Pro Bono Pledge Ireland will see lawyers commit to minimum aspirational target of free hours

A scheme that aims to provide free legal aid is being unveiled today

A scheme that aims to provide free legal aid is being unveiled today

 

An initiative that asks the legal profession to provide free legal assistance to those in need is being unveiled today.

The “Pro Bono Pledge Ireland” is being supported by the Bar of Ireland, the Law Society of Ireland and the Dublin Solicitors Bar Association. The initiative is being announced by Minister for Justice Helen McEntee.

The pledge provides a common definition of pro bono legal work, a commitment to a minimum aspirational target of 20 pro bono hours per lawyer per year and a mechanism to benchmark progress through annual reporting of anonymous pro bono data.

It currently has more than 70 signatories, representing more than 2,000 solicitors and barristers.

Speaking ahead of today’s event, Ms McEntee said: “Pro Bono Pledge Ireland represents an excellent model for pro bono delivery in Ireland.

“It recognises the voluntary contribution members of the legal profession make in pledging their time and skills for the benefit of people who need them. It serves to enhance access to justice while also promoting a culture of volunteerism and corporate social responsibility.”

Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC) chairman Peter Ward said it was “the first collaborative effort in Ireland to articulate the shared professional responsibility of lawyers to promote access to justice through pro bono legal work”.

“It recognises the substantial and growing level of pro bono contribution by the legal profession towards meeting unmet legal need,” he said.

“This need, of course, is now even more pressing due to the pandemic, where the FLAC phone line has been inundated with very stressed callers seeking urgent legal advice.”

He added: “While this pro bono pledge can never be a substitute for a properly funded system of legal aid, it is a vital and very welcome strategy which will increase access to justice for vulnerable and disadvantaged individuals and groups.”