Advocate is the Bar’s charity which works with over 4,500 volunteer barristers to make legal advice and advocacy more accessible. Thomas Johnson recently spoke about his experiences volunteering on pro bono work for clients who are often in quite desperate situations.
“Being an employed barrister can have several advantages… not least the administrative support that law firms offer and the opportunity to collaborate with talented solicitors in-house…dip your toe in by becoming a panel member of Advocate and keep an eye out for new instructions that are of interest”.
Thomas Johnson, a barrister in the Class Action and Finance Litigation Team at Edwin Coe LLP, has spoken to us about how he first got involved with Advocate as a panel member. He provides us with his insight into how taking on pro bono work can have unique advantages for the Employed Bar.
1. How did you first get involved with Advocate and pro bono work?
A commitment to access to justice and an interest in pro bono work has always been an important feature of my practice at the Bar. I have for years undertaken ad hoc instructions, such as in relation to Boris Johnson’s decision to (unlawfully) prorogue Parliament, and Advocate was recommended to me as a natural progression from those.
2. What was the most memorable case you worked on, and what did you do?
The most memorable case I worked on was representing with Ian Chai for appeal appellants in a knotty dispute concerning the terms of an unless order and the bankruptcy orders paratactic on the alleged breach of it. Mr Chai and I were successful in arguing (5 years out of time!) at the oral renewal hearing that the appeal ought to proceed to a full hearing, at which both Mr Chai and I appeared.
3. What have you found most rewarding about doing pro bono work?
I think this is best articulated by a message received from the daughter of an applicant for whom I successfully defended a claim under a personal guarantee for £250,000 recently:
“Speaking to my father today, he is beyond disbelief that such an outcome has resulted from what was a crippling and dire scenario our family were in. We felt hopeless from the injustice that we faced and we can now focus and look forward to his recovery and my brother’s care… Thank you again, Thomas. You have been the light in our dark times.”
4. How has your experience as an employed barrister affected your experience of doing pro bono work?
Positively. Being an employed barrister can have several advantages (but also drawbacks, of course), not least the administrative support that law firms offer and the opportunity to collaborate with talented solicitors in-house.
5. What would you recommend to other employed barristers unsure about whether to start doing pro bono work?
Assuming the firm by which the barrister is employed supports it, dip your toe in by becoming a panel member of Advocate and keep an eye out for new instructions that are of interest. Pick a relatively straightforward assignment and, if it suits, just give it a go!
You find out more about Advocate’s work on their website.