Faculty proud to support Pro Bono Week
At the start of Pro Bono Week, the Faculty of Advocates has restated a commitment to helping people to assert legal rights by offering a free service in appropriate cases.
Down the centuries, advocates have seen it as part of their public duty, when necessary, to represent litigants without payment, and in modern times, that is done through the Free Legal Services Unit (FLSU).
The unit draws on the entire Scottish bar - Queen’s Counsel, advocates and devils (trainee advocates) many of whom find time in their schedules to provide up to three days of free legal advice in all areas of the law and representation in any court or tribunal in Scotland.
Cases are referred to the FLSU through accredited agencies such as Citizens Advice, university law clinics and welfare rights groups. Help is given to deserving cases where no other support, such as legal aid, is available. The aim is to ensure that pro bono work is carried out to the same high standard as if the case were funded.
The unit has achieved some remarkable successes since it was formed in 2003. One of the most striking involved a woman who had been abused as a child. Her mother began a claim for criminal injuries compensation but, for various reasons, the case was never brought to a conclusion. Then, a solicitor was appointed to intervene, and he sought assistance from the FLSU. A settlement for a six-figure sum was negotiated with the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority, ending the case 24 years after it had started.
The ethos of the unit is perhaps best summed up by one of its volunteers: “The work of the FLSU helps right the balance where individuals would have otherwise had to face a professionally represented opponent on their own. The reward in doing such work lies not in the outcome but in helping that person present and argue their case in the best manner possible.”
Pro Bono Week, now in its 18th year, runs from 4 to 8 November, and encourages lawyers and law students to give voluntary legal help to those in need.
Mungo Bovey QC, FLSU convenor, said: “The unit continues to represent the commitment of Advocates to pro bono work. It is important to the Rule of Law that as many people as possible are able to assert their legal rights. The Faculty is pleased to play its part in this and proud of the role of the FLSU.”